Vice President Kamala Harris will lead a US delegation to Japan next week to attend the funeral of slain former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and later visit South Korea in a bid to signal US commitment to its allies in region, the White House said.
While abroad, Ms Harris is expected to meet with key regional leaders, including current Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol and Prime Minister Han Duck- soo amid growing tensions between the United States and China. . She arrives in Japan on Monday.
Senior administration officials said Friday that the purpose of the trip was to “reaffirm America’s commitment to our allies in an increasingly complex security environment” and to “deepen our overall commitment to the ‘Indo-Pacific’ in addition to honoring the former Prime Minister. .
The high-level visit to the region amid growing tensions in the Taiwan Strait adds to White House actions intended to bolster the Vice President’s foreign policy chops, as speculation grows over the intention of President Biden to seek re-election in 2024.
“This is an area of great strategic and national security interest to the United States,” said Democratic strategist Brad Bannon. “This is certainly an opportunity for the vice-president to restore her image in international politics. Does this send a signal towards 2024, I don’t know.
US-China relations grew increasingly strained after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Taipei in August.
The California Democrat has become the most senior US official to visit Taiwan in decades, sparking a series of Chinese military exercises around the island 100 miles from the mainland.
The White House has warned that China’s reaction to the high-profile stopover could cast a considerable shadow over US-China relations for the foreseeable future.
Relations were further inflamed earlier this week after Mr Biden said in an interview on CBS’ 60 Minutes that US forces would defend Taiwan if China launched an “unprecedented attack” on the self-governing island.
Under the Biden administration, the United States adhered to the so-called “one China” policy, under which Washington has long recognized Beijing’s position that Taiwan is part of China, even if the United States United maintains informal diplomatic relations and substantial defense ties with the island democracy – and does not technically recognize Chinese sovereignty over it.
Shortly after the interview aired, the White House said US policy toward China had not changed.
“You can assume that Taiwan will be brought up in the various bilateral meetings, both in Japan and in Korea,” the senior official said of the vice president’s trip. “Clearly, Japan and the Republic of Korea have a lot at stake in Taiwan and the region. This will be an opportunity for the Vice President to discuss recent developments and the way forward with the leaders of Japan and of the Republic of Korea.
The United States also faces growing tensions with an increasingly belligerent North Korea that has dramatically stepped up weapons testing under the Biden administration.
Officials say the vice president will “highlight the strength of the ROK alliance and discuss the threat posed by the DPRK” when meeting with Yoon.
The visit marks Ms. Harris’ second trip to the region as Vice President, following a trip to Singapore and Vietnam in August 2021.
Ms. Harris’s foray into foreign policy has come under intense scrutiny from Republicans who question her ability to deal with high-pressure situations that have global ramifications.
In March, Ms Harris led a US delegation to reassure NATO allies Poland and Romania weeks after Russia invaded Ukraine.
During the trip, she was criticized for a series of blunders at closely watched press conferences. Critics accused her of giving an uncomfortable laugh in response to a question about countries accepting immigrants fleeing war-torn Ukraine.
The gaffe led a former spokesperson for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to write “It would be a tragedy if this woman won the presidency”, on Twitter before deleting the response.