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US VP Kamala Harris Pledges 1m Pfizer Doses, Opens CDC Office During Vietnam Visit

It's been an eventful visit to Hanoi for United States Vice President Kamala Harris.

Nikkei Asia reports that on Wednesday, Harris affirmed to President Nguyễn Xuân Phúc that the US will continue to have a presence in the East Sea amid ongoing tensions with China.

"Let me affirm that the United States Navy will maintain a strong presence in the [East Sea] and will continue to challenge Beijing's bullying and excessive maritime claims," she said. Harris added that the White House is backing the Vietnamese government's request for a third patrol vessel formerly used by the US Coast Guard.

Additionally, Harris pledged a donation of 1 million Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines to Vietnam, adding to the five million Moderna doses previously contributed by the US. Thus far, 500,000 Pfizer doses arrived in Saigon yesterday, while around 270,000 doses arrived in Hanoi this morning. The rest will be delivered tomorrow.

The Vice President also attended the launch of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Southeast Asia Regional Office in Hanoi. This is one of four such regional offices around the world, with the other three located in Georgia (Europe), Oman (the Middle East), and Brazil (South America).

The CDC's director, Rochelle Walensky, spoke remotely at the opening ceremony and said, "The new office in Hanoi will be essential for global health security and help countries strengthen public health fundamentals throughout the region. It will be the hub for understanding the unique health challenges in Southeast Asia, and in doing so will undoubtedly save many, many lives."

Another major development during Harris' visit, which concludes today, was the announcement of a new US$1.2 billion US embassy in Hanoi. The facility, to be located on a 3.2-hectare plot in Cau Giay District, will be leased from the Hanoi Department of Natural Resources and Environment for 99 years. It will be the most expensive American embassy ever built.

The vice president's trip to Hanoi got off to a rocky start when her flight from Singapore was delayed for several hours due to a "report of a recent possible anomalous health incident" involving embassy staff in the Vietnamese capital.

[Photo via Bao Anh Vietnam]