Harris rebukes Beijing over South China Sea

US Vice President Kamala Harris speaks during a joint news conference with Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong
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Vice President Harris delivered a searing rebuke of China on Tuesday, contending that Beijing is continuing to “coerce” and “intimidate” other parties in the South China Sea.

Harris said Beijing “continues to coerce, to intimidate, and to make claims to the vast majority of the South China Sea” in remarks she delivered in Singapore, a stop on her weeklong trip through Southeast Asia.

“Beijing’s actions continue to undermine the rules-based order and threaten the sovereignty of nations. The United States stands with our allies and partners in the face of these threats,” she added.

Harris emphasized that the U.S.’s involvement in Southeast Asia and the Indo-Pacific “is not against any one country, nor is it designed to make anyone choose between countries.”

“Instead, our engagement is about advancing an optimistic vision that we have for our participation and partnership in this region. And our economic vision is a critical part of that,” she said.

Harris’s comments come after the White House last month endorsed a Trump-era rejection of China’s claim to the South China Sea.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken declared the administration’s dedication of a July 2020 policy that said Beijing’s claims to offshore resources in a majority of the South China Sea were “completely unlawful, as is its campaign of bullying to control them.”

The vice president’s remarks on Tuesday were an attempt to double down on the U.S.’s dedication to bolstering allies in the South China Sea, which has become an area of increased importance to the Biden administration, NBC News noted.

The administration has made countering China’s growing influence on the world stage a key part of its foreign policy.

Harris said the Indo-Pacific region is “critically important to our nation’s security and prosperity.”

She also offered comments on the situation in Afghanistan, where the U.S. is working to evacuate American citizens and Afghan allies amid the Taliban’s takeover, asserting that it is “imperative that as we address developments in one region, we continue to advance our interests in other regions, including this region”

“Over these past weeks, the United States has been focused on safely evacuating American citizens, international partners, Afghans who worked side by side with us, and other Afghans at risk. We are laser-focused on the task at hand,” Harris said.

“And we are extremely grateful to our men and women in uniform and to embassy staff who are on the ground, as we speak, making this historic airlift happen in an incredibly difficult and dangerous environment,” she added.

The U.S. evacuated roughly 21,600 people from Afghanistan between early Monday and early Tuesday, according to a White House official, bringing the total number of individuals pulled from the region since Aug. 14 to approximately 58,700.

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