Harris Kicks Off Singapore Visit in Shadow of Afghanistan Exit

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris will hold a series of meetings Monday in Singapore, a trip aimed at boosting ties with Southeast Asia that risks becoming overshadowed by questions over events in Afghanistan as the U.S. rushes to evacuate troops. 

Harris is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Monday, and hold a joint news conference with him. She will also participate in a roundtable focused on supply chain resilience on Tuesday.

The U.S. has been criticized for the chaos in Afghanistan as it withdraws troops from the country. President Joe Biden has stood by his decision, and said American intelligence assessments didn’t foresee such a rapid advance by the Taliban and collapse of the Afghan military, prompting the U.S. to race to evacuate its citizens and Afghans who aided U.S. troops. 

Harris Kicks Off Singapore Visit in Shadow of Afghanistan Exit

Harris, who arrived in Singapore on Sunday, will receive intelligence briefings on Afghanistan during her trip and will be in regular communication with the White House, officials have said.

The White House has gone on the diplomatic offensive in Asia after years of passive U.S. engagement. Southeast Asian leaders will be looking for Harris to reassure them of America’s role as a major trading partner that offers a reliable security presence against Beijing’s assertiveness in areas like the South China Sea. 

The vice president on Friday said issues stemming from a global chip shortage are “very real.” The limited supplies have continued to cause production delays for the auto and consumer electronics industries in the U.S. and the White House has for months engaged with industries and lawmakers on ways to alleviate the crisis, without much effect so far. 

Singapore has sought to increase its chip-making talent and manufacturing capability. The vice president is expected to discuss areas of cooperation including pandemic response and the digital economy during the visit, Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan had said. Discussions on green economy and cybersecurity issues are also anticipated. 

Harris will next head to Vietnam, the first time a sitting American vice president has visited since the war ended in 1975. 

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