US Vice President Kamala Harris on Friday reassured Asian leaders that “the United States is here to stay” as she described 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 US is a “proud Pacific power” and has a “vital interest in promoting an open, connected, prosperous, secure and resilient region.” “.
“The United States has an enduring economic commitment to the Indo-Pacific, 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 the start of her speech after receiving news that North Korea had launched an ICBM that landed near Japanese waters. She attended an emergency meeting of leaders from Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and Canada, where she criticized the missile test as a “blatant violation of several UN security resolutions”.
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“It destabilizes security in the region and unnecessarily increases tensions,” she said.
“We condemn in the strongest terms these actions and we reiterate our call on North Korea to stop further unlawful destabilizing acts,” Harris said. “On behalf of the United States, I have reiterated our ironclad commitment to our alliances in the Indo-Pacific.”
Her remarks at the broader APEC forum capped a week of high-level contacts from the United States to Asia as Washington seeks to counter growing Chinese influence in the region, with President Joe Biden attending the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in Cambodia first at the G20 Summit in Indonesia.
Biden also expressed the message of US engagement in the region and met with Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
After that meeting, he said there “need not be another Cold War” between the two nations, while stressing that when it came to China, the United States would “compete vigorously, but I do not seek conflict.”
Many Asian countries began to question US commitments to Asia after former President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal that had been at the heart of former President Barack Obama’s “pivot” to Asia .
The Biden administration has sought to regain confidence and take advantage of growing questions about the conditions attached to Chinese regional infrastructure investments, in what critics have dubbed Beijing’s “debt trap” diplomacy.
One case that observers have cited as a cautionary tale is Sri Lanka, which is mired in an ongoing economic crisis.
Sri Lanka has borrowed heavily from China for infrastructure projects over the past decade, which has not generated enough revenue to pay for the loans. The resulting debt has contributed to the country’s economic woes, although China was not its biggest creditor.
In October, Sri Lanka began debt restructuring talks with China, a key step towards completing an International Monetary Fund bailout of the island nation off India’s southern tip.
Harris told the forum that, in contrast, the billions of dollars in infrastructure investment the United States is mobilizing with the other G-7 countries for developing countries “is high-quality, transparent, climate-friendly and does not leave countries with insurmountable debt.”
Harris also highlighted Washington’s Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, launched earlier this year, which she says now includes a group of economies that represent 40 percent of global GDP and are “committed to equitable growth and high environmental and labor standards ’ and strong private sector industry partnerships.
She said nearly 30 percent of American exports go to the Indo-Pacific and American companies invest about $1 trillion in the region annually.
“America’s approach to these relationships is based on collaboration, sustainability, transparency and fairness,” she said. “Through all our efforts, we will continue to uphold and strengthen international economic rules and norms that protect a free market and provide predictability and stability, which is essential to protecting businesses from arbitrary interference, protecting nations from economic coercion, and protecting the rights of the to protect workers.”
She assured the forum that strengthening ties is now a bipartisan priority for the US and one that will endure.
“As we move forward together, the businesses and economies in this region will find the United States to offer immense growth opportunities,” she said. “A United States obeying the rules of the road. And America will help build prosperity for all.”