Singapore's Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan greets US Vice President Kamala Harris at Paya Lebar Base airport. Photo: AFP / Evelyn Hockstein

US Vice President Kamala Harris began a trip to Asia Sunday where she will offer reassurances of Washington’s commitment to the region after the chaotic pullout from Afghanistan and Taliban takeover.

The hardline Islamists’ swift return to power a week ago and desperate scenes of thousands trying to flee have cast another shadow over America’s status as a superpower.

But on her visit, which includes stops in Singapore and Vietnam, Harris will seek to allay concerns about US dependability.

“The Vice President will make clear throughout the trip that we do have an enduring commitment to the region,” said a senior US official.

Harris, an Asian-American whose mother was of Indian origin, landed in Singapore Sunday and will start her activities Monday by meeting the city-state’s leaders.

The Vietnam leg has sparked criticism, with some accusing Harris of being tone-deaf for visiting the communist country as US forces struggle to evacuate Americans, other foreigners and Afghan allies from Kabul airport.

The crisis has prompted comparisons with the trauma of 1975 Saigon, when US helicopters ferried final evacuees from the embassy roof as Viet Cong troops advanced.

US officials say the trip was planned long before the Afghan debacle and insist Harris is focused on Washington’s broader strategic goals in Asia.

Evacuees are airlifted by a British military aircraft in Kabul Airport on August 2. Photo: AFP / EyePress News

It is the latest visit by a top US official to the region, as President Joe Biden’s administration looks to build alliances against China and reset relations after the turbulent Donald Trump presidency.

At a time when China is challenging US political sway and naval dominance in the Indo-Pacific region, Southeast Asia remains “strategically important and economically important to this country”, said a White House official, who asked not to be named.

“That hasn’t changed with Afghanistan.”

The 10-country region is a growing battleground for influence between the US and China, and Washington has repeatedly criticized Beijing’s expansive claims to almost the entire South China Sea.

Four Southeast Asian states – Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam – as well as Taiwan have overlapping claims with Beijing in the flashpoint sea, home to key shipping lanes.

“Following the previous administration and what’s happening in Afghanistan, it is a categorical imperative for the US to build up political trust in this region,” said Mustafa Izzuddin, a senior international affairs analyst at consultancy Solaris Strategies Singapore.

During the Singapore leg of her trip, Harris will meet the president and prime minister and make a stop at the Changi Naval Base, where she’ll address US sailors aboard the visiting USS Tulsa.

She arrives in Hanoi late Tuesday, and will be the first US vice president to visit Vietnam.

Taliban fighters stand guard in a vehicle along the roadside in Kabul on August 16, 2021, after a stunningly swift end to Afghanistan’s 20-year war. Photo: AFP

She will hold Vietnamese government meetings, attend the opening of a Southeast Asian regional branch of the US Centers for Disease Control, and meet civil society representatives in the communist country.

She will also join a virtual meeting of Southeast Asian officials which will focus on the coronavirus pandemic.

US Vice President Kamala Harris began a trip to Asia Sunday where she will offer reassurances of Washington’s commitment to the region after the chaotic pullout from Afghanistan and Taliban takeover.

The hardline Islamists’ swift return to power a week ago and desperate scenes of thousands trying to flee have cast another shadow over America’s status as a superpower.

But on her visit, which includes stops in Singapore and Vietnam, Harris will seek to allay concerns about US dependability.

“The Vice President will make clear throughout the trip that we do have an enduring commitment to the region,” said a senior US official.

Harris, an Asian-American whose mother was of Indian origin, landed in Singapore Sunday and will start her activities Monday by meeting the city-state’s leaders.

The Vietnam leg has sparked criticism, with some accusing Harris of being tone-deaf for visiting the communist country as US forces struggle to evacuate Americans, other foreigners and Afghan allies from Kabul airport.

Screen grab of video showing Taliban leader Mullah Baradar Akhund (front, center) giving a message of congratulation for victories in Afghanistan. Photo: AFP / Taliban handout / EyePress News

The crisis has prompted comparisons with the trauma of 1975 Saigon, when US helicopters ferried final evacuees from the embassy roof as Viet Cong troops advanced.

US officials say the trip was planned long before the Afghan debacle and insist Harris is focused on Washington’s broader strategic goals in Asia.

It is the latest visit by a top US official to the region, as President Joe Biden’s administration looks to build alliances against China and reset relations after the turbulent Donald Trump presidency.

At a time when China is challenging US political sway and naval dominance in the Indo-Pacific region, Southeast Asia remains “strategically important and economically important to this country”, said a White House official, who asked not to be named.

“That hasn’t changed with Afghanistan.”

The 10-country region is a growing battleground for influence between the US and China, and Washington has repeatedly criticized Beijing’s expansive claims to almost the entire South China Sea.

Four Southeast Asian states – Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam – as well as Taiwan have overlapping claims with Beijing in the flashpoint sea, home to key shipping lanes.

For US President Joe Biden, the scenes in Kabul have been a disaster. Photo: AFP / Anna Moneymaker / Getty Images

“Following the previous administration and what’s happening in Afghanistan, it is a categorical imperative for the US to build up political trust in this region,” said Mustafa Izzuddin, a senior international affairs analyst at consultancy Solaris Strategies Singapore.

During the Singapore leg of her trip, Harris will meet the president and prime minister and make a stop at the Changi Naval Base, where she’ll address US sailors aboard the visiting USS Tulsa.

She arrives in Hanoi late Tuesday, and will be the first US vice president to visit Vietnam.

She will hold Vietnamese government meetings, attend the opening of a Southeast Asian regional branch of the US Centers for Disease Control, and meet civil society representatives in the communist country.

She will also join a virtual meeting of Southeast Asian officials which will focus on the coronavirus pandemic.

US Vice President Kamala Harris began a trip to Asia Sunday where she will offer reassurances of Washington’s commitment to the region after the chaotic pullout from Afghanistan and Taliban takeover.

The hardline Islamists’ swift return to power a week ago and desperate scenes of thousands trying to flee have cast another shadow over America’s status as a superpower.

But on her visit, which includes stops in Singapore and Vietnam, Harris will seek to allay concerns about US dependability.

US Vice-President Kamala Harris is seeking to shore up alliances in Asia. Photo: AFP / Joe Buglewicz / Getty Images

“The Vice President will make clear throughout the trip that we do have an enduring commitment to the region,” said a senior US official.

Harris, an Asian-American whose mother was of Indian origin, landed in Singapore Sunday and will start her activities Monday by meeting the city-state’s leaders.

The Vietnam leg has sparked criticism, with some accusing Harris of being tone-deaf for visiting the communist country as US forces struggle to evacuate Americans, other foreigners and Afghan allies from Kabul airport.

The crisis has prompted comparisons with the trauma of 1975 Saigon, when US helicopters ferried final evacuees from the embassy roof as Viet Cong troops advanced.

US officials say the trip was planned long before the Afghan debacle and insist Harris is focused on Washington’s broader strategic goals in Asia.

It is the latest visit by a top US official to the region, as President Joe Biden’s administration looks to build alliances against China and reset relations after the turbulent Donald Trump presidency.

China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy holds live fire drills in the South China Sea. Image: Agencies

At a time when China is challenging US political sway and naval dominance in the Indo-Pacific region, Southeast Asia remains “strategically important and economically important to this country”, said a White House official, who asked not to be named.

“That hasn’t changed with Afghanistan.”

The 10-country region is a growing battleground for influence between the US and China, and Washington has repeatedly criticized Beijing’s expansive claims to almost the entire South China Sea.

Four Southeast Asian states – Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam – as well as Taiwan have overlapping claims with Beijing in the flashpoint sea, home to key shipping lanes.

“Following the previous administration and what’s happening in Afghanistan, it is a categorical imperative for the US to build up political trust in this region,” said Mustafa Izzuddin, a senior international affairs analyst at consultancy Solaris Strategies Singapore.

During the Singapore leg of her trip, Harris will meet the president and prime minister and make a stop at the Changi Naval Base, where she’ll address US sailors aboard the visiting USS Tulsa.

She arrives in Hanoi late Tuesday, and will be the first US vice president to visit Vietnam.

She will hold Vietnamese government meetings, attend the opening of a Southeast Asian regional branch of the US Centers for Disease Control, and meet civil society representatives in the communist country.

She will also join a virtual meeting of Southeast Asian officials which will focus on the coronavirus pandemic.

AFP