Southeast Asia, Indo-Pacific “critically important” to the US: Harris
US Vice-President arrives in Singapore; her trip will highlight Biden's focus on alliances
United States Vice-President Kamala Harris arrived in Singapore yesterday, kicking off her first visit outside the Americas since taking office in January, declaring South-east Asia and the Indo-Pacific to be "critically important" to the US.
Arriving on Air Force Two at about 10.50am at Paya Lebar Air Base, she was received on the tarmac by Singapore's Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan.
Also present at the airbase were Singapore's Ambassador to the US Ashok Kumar Mirpuri, Permanent Secretary for Foreign Affairs Chee Wee Kiong, and charge d'affaires at the US Embassy in Singapore Rafik Mansour.
Ms Harris was accompanied by more than 20 staff and security officers. All of them wore face masks, in line with Covid-19 safe management measures here.
As part of these measures, Ms Harris did not have any public engagements yesterday.
In a Facebook post shortly after arriving at her hotel, she thanked Dr Balakrishnan for welcoming her to Singapore.
She also said: "South-east Asia and the Indo-Pacific are critically important to the security and prosperity of the United States."
Dr Balakrishnan responded in a Facebook post shortly after, saying: "We're delighted to have you visit us. The United States has always been a constructive partner and a key pillar for peace and prosperity in South-east Asia."
Ms Harris is the most senior US official to visit the region since President Joe Biden was sworn in in January, and her trip seeks to highlight the Biden administration's focus on revitalising alliances and partnerships around the world, particularly in the Indo-Pacific region.
She is also expected to focus on global public health, including tackling the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, as well as economic partnerships and security.
Last Thursday, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said Ms Harris and her delegation will undergo frequent Covid-19 testing and have a controlled itinerary to keep her visit to Singapore safe.
Ms Harris, who left the US last Friday , will begin a flurry of formal engagements today with a call on President Halimah Yacob at the Istana, followed by a meeting and joint press conference with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
A new orchid hybrid will be named in her honour during a ceremony at the Istana this morning.
She will also visit Changi Naval Base and US littoral combat ship USS Tulsa, which is in port for the annual US Navy-led multilateral South-east Asia Cooperation and Training, or Seacat, exercise that ended last Friday.
Tomorrow, Ms Harris will deliver a policy speech making the case for why America's partnerships matter, including the Biden administration's vision for engagement in the region and how it intends to deliver on it.
She will also participate in a round-table discussion with the business community and officials, where she will discuss supply chain resiliency issues, before leaving for Vietnam.