U.S. VP Harris trip to Vietnam delayed over 'health incident' in Hanoi

by Reuters
Tuesday, 24 August 2021 14:02 GMT

(Recasts with Harris trip being delayed)

By James Pearson

HANOI, Aug 24 (Reuters) - A trip to Vietnam by U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris was delayed on Tuesday following an unexplained health incident in Hanoi, the U.S. Embassy in the Southeast Asian country's capital said in a statement.

Harris, who was in Singapore concluding a three-day trip, was due to fly to Hanoi late on Tuesday but was unexpectedly delayed for three hours due to an "anomalous health incident."

"Anomalous health incident" is a term the U.S. government often uses to describe Havana Syndrome, a condition with symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, migraines and memory lapses, so named because it first was reported by U.S. officials based in the U.S. embassy in Cuba in 2016.

"The Vice President's office was made aware of a report of a recent possible anomalous health incident in Hanoi, Vietnam," the U.S. Embassy statement said.

"After careful assessment, the decision was made to continue with the Vice President's trip," the statement said, without elaborating.

A spokesperson for Harris declined to comment on the reason for the delay.

About 100 CIA officers and family members are among some 200 U.S. officials and kin sickened by "Havana syndrome," CIA Director William Burns has said.

A U.S. National Academy of Sciences panel in December found that a plausible theory is that "directed energy" beams caused the syndrome, he said.

There is a "very strong possibility" that the syndrome is intentionally caused, and that Russia could be responsible, he said, adding that he is withholding definitive conclusions pending further investigation.

Moscow denies involvement.

VIETNAM SAYS IT PICKS NO SIDES

As Harris's trip to Vietnam was delayed, Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh held an unannounced meeting with Chinese Ambassador Xiong Bo, during which Chinh said Vietnam does not align itself with one country against any other.

Earlier on Tuesday, Harris had accused https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/kamala-harris-says-beijing-continues-coerce-south-china-sea-2021-08-24 Beijing of coercion and intimidation to back claims in the South China Sea, her most pointed comments on China during a visit to Southeast Asia, a region she said was critical to U.S. security.

"The Prime Minister affirmed that Vietnam adheres to an independent, self-reliant, multilateral, and diverse foreign policy and is a responsible member of the international community," the Vietnamese government said in a statement.

"Vietnam does not align itself with one country against another," it said.

Territorial disputes in the South China Sea should be settled according to international law and "high-level common sense," it said. China would provide COVID-19 vaccine support for Vietnam, it added.

The U.S. administration has called rivalry with China "the biggest geopolitical test" of the century, and Southeast Asia has seen a series of high-profile visits by top administration officials, including Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. (Reporting by James Pearson; Additional reporting by Nandita Bose in Singapore, Editing by Trevor Hunnicutt, Angus MacSwan and Jonathan Oatis)

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