VP Harris assures Asian leaders that the US is “here to stay” – The Diplomat

“The United States is here to stay,” US Vice President Kamala Harris assured Asian leaders Friday as she presented Washington as a reliable economic partner committed to the region and its prosperity.

Harris told leaders at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit that the United States is a “proud Pacific power” and has a “vital interest in promoting an open, interconnected, prosperous, secure, and resilient region.”

“The United States has an enduring economic commitment to the Indo-Pacific, a commitment that is measured not in years, but in decades, and generations,” she said. “And there is no better economic partner for this region than the United States of America.”

Harris delayed starting her speech after receiving news that North Korea had launched an intercontinental ballistic missile that landed near Japanese waters. She joined an emergency meeting of the leaders of Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and Canada, where she slammed the missile test as a “flagrant violation of multiple UN security resolutions”.

“It destabilizes security in the region and unnecessarily increases tensions,” she said.

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Harris said: “We strongly condemn these actions and call on North Korea once again to stop further destabilizing illegal actions.” “On behalf of the United States, I reaffirm our firm commitment to our Indo-Pacific alliances.”

Her remarks at the broader APEC forum capped a week of high-level outreach from the US to Asia as Washington seeks to counter growing Chinese influence in the region, with President Joe Biden attending first the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in Cambodia, then the G-20 summit in Indonesia.

Biden also pushed the message of the US’s commitment to the region, meeting face-to-face with Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

After that meeting, he said that “there is no need for a new cold war” between the two countries, while stressing that when it comes to China, the United States “will compete aggressively, but I am not looking for conflict.”

Many Asian countries have begun to question the United States’ commitment to Asia after former President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, which was a cornerstone of former President Barack Obama’s “pivot” to Asia.

The Biden administration is seeking to restore confidence and capitalize on growing questions about threads tied to regional Chinese infrastructure investments that critics of Beijing’s diplomacy have dubbed a “debt trap.”

One case that observers cited as a cautionary tale is that of Sri Lanka, which has been mired in an ongoing economic crisis.

Sri Lanka has borrowed heavily from China over the past decade for infrastructure projects that have failed to generate sufficient revenue to repay the loans. The resulting debt contributed to the country’s economic woes even though China was not its largest creditor.

In October, Sri Lanka began debt restructuring talks with China, a significant step toward finalizing an International Monetary Fund bailout for the island nation off India’s southern tip.

Harris told the forum that, by contrast, the billions of dollars in infrastructure investment that the United States is mobilizing with other G7 countries for the developing world is “high-level, transparent, climate-friendly, and leaves countries with insurmountable debt.”

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Harris also highlighted Washington’s Indo-Pacific Economic Framework launched earlier this year, which she said now includes a group of economies accounting for 40 percent of global GDP “dedicated to equitable growth and high environmental and labor standards.” , as well as strong private sector partnerships.

She said nearly 30 percent of US exports go to the Indo-Pacific region, and US companies invest about $1 trillion annually in the region.

“America’s approach to these relations is based on cooperation, sustainability, transparency and fairness,” she said. “Through all our efforts, we will continue to uphold and strengthen international economic rules and standards that protect the free market and create predictability and stability, which is essential to protecting businesses from arbitrary interference, protecting states from economic coercion, and protecting workers’ rights.”

She assured the forum that strengthening relations was now a bipartisan priority for the United States, and that it would continue.

“As we move forward together, businesses and economies in this region will find the United States that offers tremendous opportunities for growth,” she said. The United States that will abide by the rules of the road. And a United States that will help build prosperity for all.”

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