U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris said the international community needs to “raise the pressure” on China over its widespread territorial claims over the South China Sea Wednesday, during a speech on her first day in Hanoi.
Harris made the remarks in the Vietnamese capital ahead of a bilateral meeting with President Nguyen Xuan Phuc. “We need to find ways to pressure and raise the pressure on Beijing to abide by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea” — a reference to the U.N. treaty that establishes all maritime activities around the world — “and to challenge its bullying and excessive maritime claims.”
Harris’ use of the word “bullying” builds on accusations made earlier during a visit to Singapore Monday that China “continues to coerce, to intimidate and to make claims to the vast majority of the South China Sea.”
Beijing has aggressively expanded its military presence in the region, establishing scores of outposts on artificial islands while claiming ownership of other islands despite competing claims by Vietnam and other East Asian Pacific nations.
U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration has made countering Chinese influence a key part of its foreign policy.
Harris also announced that the United States will provide an additional 1 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to Vietnam and open a new regional branch of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Hanoi.
Harris is the first U.S. vice president to visit Vietnam. Her flight from Singapore to Hanoi Tuesday was delayed because of “a report of a recent possible anomalous health incident,” in the city, according to the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi.
The U.S. State Department has often used “anomalous health incidents” to refer to an illness that has stricken dozens of U.S. diplomats, commonly known as the Havana Syndrome.
Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse, and Reuters.