U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris spoke of what she called a “shared vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific region” as she visited Singapore at the start of a short trip to Southeast Asia.
Speaking to reporters alongside Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Harris stressed U.S. commitment to the region and working with allies to “uphold the rules-based international order and freedom of navigation, including in the South China Sea.”
“The reason I am here is because the United States is a global leader, and we take that role seriously,” Harris said.
Monday’s talks included extensive focus on the climate crisis, Harris said, along with the need for cooperation to end the coronavirus pandemic and to prevent future ones from occurring.
“The pandemic has highlighted the importance of working together as partners on the issue of global health,” she said.
Harris is scheduled to meet Tuesday with business leaders in Singapore as part of a joint effort to shore up supply chains. The United States and Singapore have also agreed to cooperate on an effort to identify new coronavirus variants and to boost preparedness in Southeast Asia.
Earlier Monday, Harris took part in a welcome ceremony and met with President Halimah Yacob.
Harris will also make a stop Monday at the Changi Naval Base, where she will speak to U.S. sailors aboard the visiting USS Tulsa.
Late Tuesday, Harris arrives in Vietnam, becoming the first U.S. vice president to visit Hanoi, as Washington seeks to bolster international support to counter China’s growing global influence.
Her visit follows Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s late July trip to the same two countries plus the Philippines and Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s virtual meetings August 4 with counterparts from the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations at an annual summit.
Ralph Jennings contributed to this article.