Harris’s flight delayed after potential health issue in Vietnam

Vice President Harris’s departure from Singapore on Tuesday was delayed for several hours after a report of an unexpected health issue in Hanoi, Vietnam, where she was scheduled to travel.

The health issue was not Harris’s, but few other details were available. When asked about the delay, Harris’s communications director, Symone Sanders, said the vice president was well and “all is fine.”

Bloomberg reported that the issue may have been connected to a possible case of “Havana syndrome,” the neurological issue that has cropped up among diplomats and U.S. personnel abroad repeatedly in recent months with unclear origins.

“Earlier this evening, the Vice President’s traveling delegation was delayed from departing Singapore because the Vice President’s office was made aware of a report of a recent possible anomalous health incident in Hanoi, Vietnam,” the State Department said in a statement. “After careful assessment, the decision was made to continue with the Vice President’s trip.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters later Tuesday the medical incident was not a confirmed case of Havana syndrome, but that the issue is being taken seriously. Officials did a safety assessment and determined it was OK for Harris to carry on with her travel, Psaki said.

NBC News reported last month that up to 200 Americans abroad had reported symptoms possibly connected to Havana syndrome, which included sudden illness and in some instances brain injuries. Officials believe the incidents could be connected to the use of radio wave weapons, though the cause has not been confirmed.

Sanders was pressed during the flight from Singapore to Vietnam about the nature of the issue that caused the delay. She repeatedly refused to divulge details about the situation, other than to say it did not involve the vice president.

“I will note you all saw the vice president out on the tarmac,” Sanders told reporters. “She is well, all is fine and looking forward to meetings in Hanoi tomorrow.”

“This has nothing to do with the vice president’s health,” she added.

Harris was scheduled to depart Tuesday afternoon local time from Singapore to Vietnam after delivering a speech on the Biden administration’s policy toward the Indo-Pacific region. But reporters were instead sent back to their hotel rooms, where they waited for more than three hours without a clear indication of why.

The vice president took off for Vietnam roughly three hours behind schedule.

Harris is scheduled to meet in person with Vietnamese President Nguyễn Xuân Phúc on Wednesday, as well as with Vietnamese Prime Minister Phạm Minh Chính. She will also deliver remarks at the launch of a regional Centers for Disease Control and Prevention office in Hanoi.

Harris’s trip to Singapore and Vietnam is the first by a Biden official to Asia, and it comes as the U.S. seeks to reassure allies of its policy priorities amid a chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan. 

—Updated at 5:18 p.m.

Tags havana syndrome Jen Psaki Symone Sanders Vietnam

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