US VP Harris accuses Beijing of coercion in disputed sea

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South China Sea
South China Sea

US Vice President Kamala Harris on Tuesday accused China of coercion and intimidation in the disputed South China Sea.

“Beijing’s actions continue to undermine the rules-based order,” she said, speaking in Singapore.

China’s sweeping claim to most of the resource-rich sea overlap with those of several other nations, including Vietnam and the Philippines, a US ally.

Harris had opened her remarks by saying the US is “laser focused” on evacuations from Kabul’s international airport after the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban a week ago.

“I am fully aware that the eyes of the world are on Afghanistan,” she said, describing the US withdrawal from the country as a “courageous and right decision.”

“We had achieved what we went there to do,” she said, doubling down on US President Joe Biden’s justification for the withdrawal.

Despite the retreat from Afghanistan, Harris said the US aims to “pursue a free and open Indo Pacific” based on what she said were her country’s “enduring interests” in the region.

Harris arrived in Singapore on Sunday on the first leg of a South-East Asia visit that will also take her to Vietnam on Tuesday.

Her Asia itinerary was arranged before the Taliban group gained control of Afghanistan just over a week ago and follows Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin’s recent visits to Singapore, the Philippines and Vietnam, during which he also criticized Chinese claims to the South China Sea.

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