By Nandita Bose and Aradhana Aravindan
SINGAPORE (Reuters) – US Vice President Kamala Harris will meet with Singapore leaders on Monday on the first working day of a trip to Southeast Asia to strengthen ties as part of Washington’s efforts to counter the growing influence from China.
Harris will meet with Singapore President Halimah Yacob and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, then tour Changi Naval Base and visit the USS Tulsa, a US Navy combat ship.
Singapore is not an ally of the United States, but remains one of its strongest security partners in the region with close trade ties. However, he also seeks to balance his relations with the United States and China by not taking sides.
The country is home to the largest port in Southeast Asia and supports continued free shipping in the region, where China is increasingly asserting itself.
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Harris arrived in Singapore on Sunday at the start of a seven-day visit to the region, which will also include a trip to Vietnam. During the visits, US officials will aim to address Washington’s concerns over China’s claims to disputed parts of the South China Sea.
Singapore has urged greater US engagement in Asia, but has warned that efforts to ‘contain’ China’s rise are counterproductive, ‘according to a report released in April by the Congressional Research Service, which conducts research and analyzes for the US Congress.
“Singapore has maintained generally good relations with China, at least in part to protect itself against a possible US pullback,” the report said.
In a recent interview with Reuters, Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan praised the role the United States and China are playing in the region – reflecting the delicate diplomacy with which they have been successful and a Harris must navigate.
He said the United States and Singapore will discuss topics such as the pandemic, the digital economy and cybersecurity.
“The leaders of the two countries will probably be careful to avoid creating impressions about which Beijing might find reasons to be hostile,” said Chong Ja Ian, a political scientist at the National University of Singapore, referring to Singapore and Vietnam. , where Harris is heading. Tuesday night.
Part of Harris’ task will also be to convince the leaders of Singapore and Vietnam that Washington’s commitment to Southeast Asia is firm and not a parallel to Afghanistan. https://reut.rs/3kiOCP7
Curtis Chin, Asian researcher at the Milken Institute and former US ambassador to the Asian Development Bank, said the US needs a “global hub to Asia, including a trade hub, and that Singapore and Vietnam could be key partners in this effort. “
“Restoring confidence and confidence in the steadfastness and resilience of the United States, however, must come first,” Chin said.
(Reporting by Nandita Bose; Editing by Susan Fenton)
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