In Singapore on Tuesday, Vice President Kamala Harris scolded China for trying to bully its neighbors in the South China Sea region. 

The vice president said that China “continues to coerce, to intimidate, and to make claims to the vast majority of the South China Sea.”

“Beijing’s actions continue to undermine the rules-based order and threaten the sovereignty of nations. The United States stands with our allies and partners in the face of these threats,” she added.

The rebuke comes as China has used the botched U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan as a propaganda point, and amid continuing questions about how forthcoming China was about the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic.   

Also, last spring at a conference in Anchorage, Alaska, Chinese diplomats were widely perceived as having gotten the best of their U.S. counterparts from a rhetorical standpoint. As a candidate for president, Joe Biden largely dismissed China as an economic competitor. Unanswered questions also have persisted about the financial ties the president’s son, Hunter Biden, has with Chinese companies. 

The remarks by the vice president in Singapore on Tuesday were part of a weeklong swing through Southeast Asia. From there, she was headed for Vietnam.

U.S. policy “is not against any one country, nor is it designed to make anyone choose between countries,” Harris said, regarding its engagement in the Indo-Pacific region and in Southeast Asia.

“Instead, our engagement is about advancing an optimistic vision that we have for our participation and partnership in this region,” Harris said. “And our economic vision is a critical part of that.”

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