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Kamala Harris Has a Warning for China Over 'Intimidation'

Vice president delivered rebuke from Singapore on Tuesday on nation's actions in South China Sea
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 24, 2021 7:28 AM CDT
Harris: China's Moves in South China Sea Are 'Intimidation'
Vice President Kamala Harris delivers a speech at Gardens by the Bay in Singapore before departing for Vietnam on the second leg of her Southeast Asia trip on Tuesday.   (Evelyn Hockstein/Pool Photo via AP)

(Newser) – Vice President Kamala Harris delivered a sharp rebuke to China for its incursions in the South China Sea, warning its actions there amount to "coercion" and "intimidation" and affirming that the US will support its allies in the region against Beijing's advances. "We know that Beijing continues to coerce, to intimidate, and to make claims to the vast majority of the South China Sea," she said in a major foreign policy speech Tuesday in Singapore, in which she laid out the Biden administration's vision for the Indo-Pacific, per the AP. "Beijing's actions continue to undermine the rules-based order and threaten the sovereignty of nations."

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Harris, who's on a weeklong swing through Southeast Asia, declared that the US "stands with our allies and our partners" in the face of threats from China. The speech sought to cement the US commitment to supporting its allies in an area of growing importance to the Biden administration, which has made countering China's influence globally a centerpiece of its foreign policy. It came during a critical moment for the United States, as the Biden administration seeks to further solidify its pivot toward Asia while America's decadeslong focus on the Middle East comes to a messy end with the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Harris underscored this shift, calling the Indo-Pacific "critically important to our nation's security and prosperity." She said that while the US is focused on closing out its Afghanistan engagement by evacuating as many people as possible, "it is also imperative that as we address developments in one region, we continue to advance our interests in other regions, including this region." Although her rebuke to Beijing amounted to her sharpest comments yet on the US foe, Harris was careful to emphasize that the US is seeking greater engagement in the Indo-Pacific region not just to counter China, but to advance an "optimistic vision that we have for our participation and partnership in the region."

China hit back, with Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin invoking Afghanistan in his response to a question about Harris' comments, saying the messy withdrawal from Kabul showed the US had lost credibility. He charged that the US "can smear, suppress, coerce, and bully other countries at will in order to maintain America first, without paying any price." "This is the order that the US wants," he noted. "The US always tries to make use of the rules and order to justify its own selfish bullying and hegemonic behavior, but who still [believes] it now?”

(Read more Kamala Harris stories.)

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