The United States Vice President, Kamala Harris has pledged to provide COVID-19 vaccines to Vietnam with additional doses. She made this pledge during a regional visit aimed at countering China’s growing influence in Vietnam.
Speaking at the top of a bilateral meeting with Vietnamese Prime Minister, Pham Minh Chinh on Wednesday, she stated that the one million doses would begin to arrive within 24 hours, bringing the United States’s total vaccine donation to Vietnam to six million doses.
The coronavirus aid is part of a wide-ranging set of announcements on fresh partnerships and support for Vietnam delivered to coincide with Harris’ visit to the nation as the US vice president is on a week-long swing through Southeast Asia, a trip that also included a visit to Singapore earlier in the week.
During her meeting, Harris also expressed support for sending an additional US Coast Guard cutter to Vietnam, to help defend its security interests in the South China Sea and issued a sharp critique of Beijing’s incursions in the disputed waterway.
Her comments follow sharp words towards Beijing during a speech in Singapore on Tuesday, where she said their actions in the South China Sea amount to “coercion” and “intimidation.”
China, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Taiwan, lay claim to parts of the South China Sea, which is crossed by vital shipping lanes and contains gas fields and rich fishing grounds. Beijing has established military outposts on artificial islands in the South China Sea and objects to foreign warships sailing through what it claims is its sovereign waters.
In 2016, the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled against China’s claim but Beijing has rejected the ruling.
In response to the US Vice President’s comments, the Chinese media have accused the US vice president of seeking to drive a wedge between China and its Southeast Asian neighbours.
The state-run China Daily editorial, in response to Harris’ comments, stated that “While pointing a finger at China and accusing it of ‘coercion’ and ‘intimidation,’ Harris willfully ignored her own hypocrisy in attempting to coerce and intimidate regional countries to join Washington in its scheme to contain China.”
“Harris’s Singapore speech was a baseless attack on China,” the editorial said. “It seems that the United States’ only commitment to Southeast Asia is its dedicated efforts to drive a wedge between the Southeast Asian nations and China,” it added.