United States Vice President Kamala Harris will make her first official visit to Singapore and Vietnam in August 2021, the White House announced on July 30.
The 56-year-old's visit to Singapore comes at the invitation of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
He said he is "delighted" to welcome Harris on her first official visit to Singapore.
Strengthen ties with partners
The White House said the trip is to strengthen ties with "two critical Indo-Pacific partners", but did not provide details on the dates of the trip.
PM Lee's press secretary said Harris will meet Singapore leaders and discuss ways to deepen bilateral cooperation in multiple areas.
These areas include defence, cybersecurity, digital trade, climate change and the global response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
PM Lee said: "I look forward to our discussions on strengthening bilateral cooperation and working together on global challenges such as the Covid-19 pandemic and climate change."
First U.S. vice president to visit Vietnam
Harris will be the first vice president to ever visit Vietnam.
The White House said in a statement: "President Biden and Vice President Harris have made it a top priority to rebuild our global partnerships and keep our nation secure, and this upcoming visit continues that work – deepening our engagement in Southeast Asia."
"The vice president will also affirm and celebrate the strong cultural and people-to-people ties between the United States and these countries."
The last visit to Singapore by a U.S. vice president was in November 2018, by then-office holder Mike Pence.
What U.S. media is saying about visits
U.S. media have framed Harris' visit as the Biden administration working to fortify regional ties with Southeast Asian nations, while pushing back on China’s influence in the region and globally.
The announcement was also viewed as coming just days after Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s own trip to Singapore, the Philippines and Vietnam, which U.S. media said focused on offering support to Southeast Asia nations as territorial rifts with China unfold.
New ambassador to Singapore
Harris' visit and fresh engagement with countries in Southeast Asia comes as Biden also nominated a new ambassador to Singapore on July 29.
Jonathan Kaplan is currently the chairperson of non-profit organisation EducationSuperHighway.
The White House described him as an "entrepreneur and innovator".
He also formerly held the position of chairman and CEO at several companies.
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Top photo via White House