Washington gets serious about the Mekong

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris launched a mission impossible this week to restore her country’s shaky credibility as a trusted ally.

“The reason I am here is because the United States is a global leader, and we take that role seriously,” a straight-faced Harris said on her arrival in Singapore. Sidestepping questions about the chaos in Afghanistan, Harris emphasized that the administration was “singularly focused” on evacuation operations.

But the timing of her trip highlighted President Joe Biden’s concerns about burnishing America’s image. “I am here in Singapore as a reaffirmation of our commitment to our membership in the Indo-Pacific region,” Harris said.

The Vietnam leg of Harris’ trip heralds what Washington portrays as a new strategic relationship with its former enemy. Sitting at the heart of mainland Southeast Asia, Vietnam not only shares a border with China, but its 3,260 km of coastline is of enormous strategic value.

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Kavi Chongkittavorn