When Vice President Kamala Harris’ trip to Vietnam was delayed for three hours, China swooped and upstaged her, offering twice as many COVID-19 vaccines as she was prepared to announce once she got there.
“Harris was set to announce a U.S. donation of one million doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine as part of a broader effort to cultivate closer ties with Vietnam and counteract Beijing’s influence in the region,” Fox News reported.
“When Harris’ team experienced a three-hour delay ahead of her planned meeting with Vietnamese President Nguyen Xuan Phuc, China sent its own diplomat to meet with Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh and offer two million vaccine doses,” said Fox, citing a Washington Post report.
Harris’ trip to Vietnam on Tuesday was delayed because of concerns about “an anomalous health incident” in Hanoi, according to the State Department.
“Earlier this evening, the vice president’s traveling delegation was delayed from departing Singapore because the vice president’s office was made aware of a report of a recent possible anomalous health incident in Hanoi, Vietnam,” the U.S. embassy in Hanoi said in a statement. “After careful assessment, the decision was made to continue with the vice president’s trip.”
Bloomberg News reported that the term has special meaning. “The State Department has frequently used the phrase ‘anomalous health incidents’ to describe so-called Havana Syndrome, which has afflicted dozens of U.S. diplomats and intelligence officials who describe feeling ill and other unusual physical sensations after hearing strange sounds. The U.S. has not determined a cause for the affliction, and the White House on Tuesday declined to say if the individual’s symptoms were similar to those in other Havana Syndrome cases.”
Harris, who is on a week-long tour of Asia, was scheduled to leave Singapore at 4 p.m. local time, but reporters traveling with the vice president “were abruptly sent back to the Shangri-La hotel shortly after 3:30 p.m. local time after being loaded into vans for the planned departure from Paya Lebar Air Base. Her plane eventually took off at around 7:30 p.m. local time,” Bloomberg reported.
The vice president’s office did not explain the delay. Her spokeswoman Symone Sanders told reporters before takeoff: “You saw her get onto the plane. She is well. All is fine,” The Daily Mail reported.
After China upstaged the U.S. vice president, the Vietnamese prime minister thanked Beijing’s diplomat and said Vietnam “does not ally with one country to fight against another,” according to Vietnamese state-run media.
Harris has been harsh to China on her Asia trip. In Vietnam, she called on the nation to join the Biden administration to oppose China’s effort to expand its influence in the South China Sea. “We need to find ways to pressure and raise the pressure, frankly, on Beijing to abide by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and to challenge its bullying and excessive maritime claims,” Harris said at one meeting.
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