SINGAPORE — Vice President Kamala Harris slammed China in her sharpest words yet for the country while reassuring allies in Asia they won’t have to choose between the United States and China.
China has claimed nearly all of South Asia but a tribunal at the Permanent Court of Arbitration dismissed that in 2016, saying its claim was legally baseless.
The South China Sea is a hub for commercial shipping. The U.S. and China have been at odds over the years and Southeast Asia has been caught in the middle of the ongoing conflict between the two countries.
“We know that Beijing continues to coerce, intimidate and make claims to the vast majority of the South China Sea,” Harris said. “The U.S. stands with our allies and partners in the face of these threats.”
“These unlawful claims have been rejected by the 2016 arbitral tribunal decision, and Beijing’s actions continue to undermine the rules-based order and threaten the sovereignty of nations,” she added.
Harris said the United States wants to support a free and more open Indo-Pacific, a region where the U.S. has been an important presence.
The Vice President went ahead and reassured allies in Asia that the United States will not make Asia choose between Washington and China.
“I must be clear: Our engagement in Southeast Asia and Indo-Pacific is not against any one country, nor is it designed to make anyone choose between countries,” she said.
Harris reiterated the U.S. remains committed to the region despite President Joe Biden facing criticism over how his administration handled the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. She doubled down on her comments from Monday, saying the U.S. is still a global leader despite the Afghanistan criticism.
The Vice President arrived in Singapore on Sunday and met with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. Harris is scheduled to leave for Vietnam on Tuesday afternoon before departing the region on Thursday.