Harris dives into Asian diplomacy amid questions back home about her political future

Palawan, Philippines

Vice President Kamala Harris is sticking close to her script when responding to what Democrats hope will once again be their biggest electoral mobiliser: Donald Trump and his third bid for the White House.

“The president has said he intends to run and if he does, I will run with him,” she told CNN on Tuesday — the first time she was asked about Trump’s 2024 candidacy, which he announced last week has She addressed a gaggle of reporters aboard the Teresa Magbanua, a Philippine Coast Guard ship stationed at the edge of the South China Sea.

Her cautious response at the end of a week-long gaffe-free trip to Thailand and the Philippines could serve as a reflection of Harris’s vice presidency in her second year: draw the line but don’t make waves.

When she returns from Asia, she is caught in a vortex of uncertainty about her place in the party if the now 80-year-old President Joe Biden does not seek a second term. The president is expected to consider the decision over Thanksgiving and future holidays with the family, whose advice he will seek to run for re-election.

Harris’ trip to Asia – her third to the region since taking office – was another chance for America’s first South Asian vice president to demonstrate her ability to lead in the traditional way of the vice presidency without her role as No. 2 exceed.

She attended a series of bilateral meetings and greetings with Asian prime ministers and presidents, including Chinese President Xi Jinping, a last-minute high-profile meeting with Indo-Pacific countries called after North Korea launched a long-range ballistic missile hours ago The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders Summit began and went on a symbolic visit to the Philippine archipelago island of Palawan, which could potentially increase tensions with China.

With Biden in Washington, D.C., for his granddaughter’s wedding, Harris continued her role as his top-ranking envoy in a trip to deepen ties with mostly friendly Asian nations and the United States as the best option of the region for economic stability – part of an ongoing effort to counter China’s growing influence.

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The vice president called the trip a success as she flaunted her political chops in the region, trying to cast herself as a deft leader who will speak for Biden in his absence.

“It is very important that we were here today to reiterate the United States’ commitment to international rules and norms. This trip and this visit was also about demonstrating the strength and importance of our relationship with the Philippines, both in terms of related to economic issues and also security issues,” Harris said in Palawan, in a speech where she rejected China’s aggression in the country. South China Sea and announced funding initiatives to strengthen the country’s systems and deepen security ties.

Still, Harris’s events were tightly scripted and the trip itself, highly choreographed.

Harris’ “brief meeting” with Xi, as her office described it, was her first face-to-face meeting with the world leader, occurring on the sidelines of APEC. It was probably Harris’s high-profile moment of the trip, despite the lack of US press in the room to see it. The vice president met with him just a week after Biden’s first personal bilateral with Xi, which lasted three hours.

But unlike the president, who can share as much of a conversation as he wants, there was an obvious limit to how much Harris felt comfortable sharing. She has repeatedly refused to go far beyond what was spelled out in a carefully calculated statement at her meeting with Xi.

“We discussed that we would maintain open lines of communication, that we would not seek conflict or confrontation, but we welcome competition,” Harris told reporters at a press conference ending her trip to Thailand, doubling down on whether that conversation touched North Korea. or Taiwan.

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If the goal was to stay gaffe free, the planning seems to have paid off. The Republican National Committee only snapped moments on Twitter that may have been awkward but didn’t lend themselves to real criticism — unusual treatment for one of their most-attacked Democrats.

On the first day of APEC, a “deeply concerned” Harris called aides to convene a last-minute unannounced emergency multilateral meeting with Indo-Pacific region allies, according to a senior administration official, after North Korea launched a long-range ballistic missile. Rockets Friday morning – their second highest moment of the trip.

Harris directed her team after being informed of the latest launch, a White House official said, using the Indo-Pacific nation’s presence at the APEC Leaders Summit to do so. At the head of a u-shaped table in a small room at the Queen Sirikit National Convention Center, the vice president accused North Korea of ​​”brazen violations of multiple UN security resolutions.”

“This recent behavior by North Korea is a blatant violation of various UN security resolutions. It destabilizes security in the region, and raises unnecessary tensions. We strongly condemn these actions, and we once again call on North Korea to stop further illegal destabilization, said Harris. “On behalf of the United States, I reaffirm our commitment to our Indo Pacific Alliance.”

Her statement came after one of the National Security Council issued several hours on behalf of Biden, almost to a tea.

The last-minute nature of the meeting had aides moving quickly to corral the US press, but with no time to introduce cameras, press from the US, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and Korea jostled for a corner – causing the photo -on visuals for being shaky and lopsided at times.

Still, it was a moment that seemed almost presidential for Harris, as it recalled the personal emergency meeting Biden convened with top allies during his final day at the G20 in Indonesia, as a Russian-made missile landed in the borders of a NATO ally.

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But the presidential position had limits. During the week-long trip, the vice president answered political and policy questions on only two separate occasions from the group of all-women reporters traveling with her from Washington — two or three questions each time.

Harris didn’t shy away from talking points in her responses, careful not to go over Biden’s position on a multitude of issues.

Harris has long sought opportunities to showcase her own interests and forge her own trajectory as a young vice president with potential presidential ambitions.

At home, she took the lead for the administration on abortion rights. And on trips abroad, Harris has told aides she wants to go outside the box when it comes to scheduling. A big part of it was meeting women and families in different countries.

This directive was evident in Manila when she participated in a moderated talk on women’s empowerment and entrepreneurship in a ballroom at the Sofitel.

“On the issue of women’s economic well-being, I think we all know, and I feel very strongly, you raise a woman’s economic status, her family will be lifted. Her community will be lifted,” said Harris as the Filipino women nod in agreement. “All of society will benefit. Raise the economic status of women, and all of society will benefit.

In the Palawan fishing village of Tagburos, Harris saw the women cleaning fish in front of a picturesque backdrop to talk about the destruction of climate change and illegal fishing in the village.

“Hello ma’am,” she yelled as she approached. Harris’s translator introduced the women as her best friends.

“Best friends,” Harris said, with a smile and a wave.


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