U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris heads to Thailand this week to promote U.S. economic interests at a regional summit and discuss concerns over an ongoing military crackdown in Myanmar.
Harris will deliver remarks at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, a gathering that includes 21 members who push for increasing economic integration and prosperity.
Ahead of the trip, a senior administration official told reporters in a background briefing that the United States expects talks will result in funding for new economic initiatives. “We also anticipate they will discuss the situation in Burma, as well as other regional and global developments,” the official said, using another name for Myanmar.
The official said Harris would discuss Myanmar with leaders in Thailand, as well as the Philippines, where she will travel in the coming days. “Thailand and the Philippines are both heavily impacted by the crackdown by the regime there [Myanmar],” the senior administration official said.
The military staged a coup in Myanmar in 2021, overthrowing the democratically elected government, triggering armed resistance in the country.
Last week, Myanmar was excluded from a summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Members of the bloc issued a joint statement warning Myanmar to make measurable progress on a peace plan or risk being barred from the bloc’s meetings as social and political chaos escalates in the country.
Myanmar’s ruling junta rejected the ASEAN statement. The junta has previously blamed the lack of progress on the pandemic and obstruction from armed resistance movements.
Chinese President Xi Jinping also is expected to attend the APEC summit but there is no meeting with Harris. Earlier this week, Xi held a nearly three-hour meeting with President Joe Biden.
Philippines trip includes island stop
Harris’ trip to the Philippines will focus attention on a territorial dispute between Manila and Beijing.
She will travel to Puerto Princesa, on the Philippine island of Palawan, to highlight her administration’s commitment to the rule of law in the disputed South China Sea. She will be the highest-ranking U.S. official ever to visit the island bordering an area where China has engaged in a military build-up. Washington has accused Beijing of advancing unlawful maritime claims in the South China Sea.
“This visit demonstrates the Biden-Harris administration’s commitment to stand with our Philippine ally in upholding the rules-based international maritime order in the South China Sea, supporting maritime livelihoods, and countering illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing,” the U.S. official said on Tuesday.
The Philippines and several other governments have competing claims to the resource-rich waterway.
On Monday in Manila, the vice president is also expected to sit down with Philippine leader Ferdinand Marcos Jr. as well as with Vice President Sara Duterte, the daughter of the country’s former president, Rodrigo Duterte.
VOA State Department Bureau Chief Nike Ching contributed to this report. Ralph Jennings also contributed.