The U.S. will donate another 1 million COVID-19 vaccines to Vietnam, open a Southeast Asia branch of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Hanoi and resist Beijing “bullying” in the South China Sea, Vice President Kamala Harris said Wednesday during her tour of the region.
“Let me affirm that the United States Navy will maintain a strong presence in the South China Sea and will continue to challenge Beijing’s bullying and excessive maritime claims,” she said during a meeting with Vietnamese President Nguyen Xuan Phuc.
The donation of additional Pfizer vaccines brings the total U.S. donation to Vietnam to 6 million, enough to fully vaccinate 3 million persons in the nation of 96 million people.
President Biden has been doling out millions of doses to the rest of the world as he pleads with Americans to get vaccinated with shots that are free and plentiful at home.
“All of these deliveries are in fact donations — free of charge with no strings attached because for us it is about saving lives,” Ms. Harris said in Hanoi.
She said the new CDC office will help the U.S. and Asian partners detect emerging pathogens as the world fights the coronavirus first detected in China and braces for whatever health crises are around the corner.
“If we are honest, we must be better prepared for the next one,” Ms. Harris said.
China loomed over the talks, as Ms. Harris completed a tour of Singapore and Vietnam to strengthen U.S. relationships and expand economic cooperation with partners in the region.
Ms. Harris said the U.S. supports Vietnam’s request for a third U.S. Coast Guard cutter to shore up its maritime capabilities as China lays claim to swaths of the South China Sea. She said everyone in the region needs to play by the same rules.
“We will work closely with Vietnam to uphold the rule-based international order, including freedom of navigation, an issue that we take seriously, and including as it relates to the South China Sea,” Ms. Harris said. “We need to find ways to pressure and raise the pressure, frankly, on Beijing to abide by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and to challenge its bullying and excessive maritime claims.”
Also Wednesday, the White House announced a series of steps to improve U.S.-Vietnam ties, including lower tariffs on U.S. exports of pork and efforts to shore, initiatives to help Vietnam compete in the digital economy and projects that promote electric motorbikes and sustainable fisheries in the Mekong Delta.
It also pledged $17.5 million for surveying and clearing unexploded ordnances and support for persons with disabilities in the aftermath of the Vietnam War, which a fact sheet described as “legacy of war issues.”
Ms. Harris visited a monument at the site where the late Sen. John McCain of Arizona was shot down by the North Vietnamese army during his time as a Navy lieutenant commander in 1967. He was famously imprisoned by the North Vietnamese for five years.
“John McCain was an extraordinary American hero. I was honored and privileged to serve with him for a short time in the United States Senate. John McCain, he loved our country,” Ms. Harris said. “He was so courageous and really lived the life of a hero — the sacrifices he made that were on every scale imaginable, loved our country and really always fought for the best of who we are. And it turns out today is the anniversary, so there we are.”
Ms. Harris is on her second trip abroad as vice president, following her mission to Mexico and Guatemala in June that was aimed at addressing the “root causes” of illegal migration from Central America.
• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at email@example.com.
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