Washington- Even before the dust settles down in Afghanistan, where the Taliban militant group toppled the US-backed government and forced the American troops to withdraw, US vice president Kamala Harris is embarking on a trip to Vietnam, the site of even more infamous American military debacle.
The trip to Vietnam and Singapore, starting Monday, was announced last week, before the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul, but it is likely to whip up a storm over America’s failed war in Afghanistan.
The stark parallels between the dramatic turn of events in the besieged Afghan capital last week and what unfolded in Saigon in 1975 has sparked a buzz.
Senior US government officials, speaking to reporters on Harris’ Southeast Asia trip, have sought to downplay or dismiss historical comparisons between Saigon and Kabul.
“She will continue to work on those issues (Afghanistan) and be in constant contact with Washington and her colleagues during this trip,” a senior US official was quoted as saying by The Hill. “At the same time it is also true that Southeast Asia in the Indo Pacific is really important and that's why she's going.”
Reuters quoted a senior US administration official as saying that the trip was choreographed to send a message that the US was in the region “to stay,” as Washington seeks to garner international support to counter China's growing regional and global influence.
“President [Joe] 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,” Symone Sanders, senior advisor and chief spokesperson for Harris, said in the White House statement.
A Chinese expert, in an article published in China’s state-run daily Global Times, termed Harris’ Southeast Asia trip “the third wave of diplomatic offensive” by the Biden administration on the South China Sea within a period of less than two months.
“All these practices indicate that the Biden administration is promoting its new South China Sea policy. Right now, the US is attempting to rope in the UK, Germany, Japan and Australia to construct a "small bloc" for the common goal of containing China,” wrote Chen Xiangmiao.
Harris, an Asian-American whose mother was of Indian origin, will be the first US vice president to visit Vietnam. She will also be the highest-ranking official from the Biden administration to visit the Indo-Pacific region.
While her administration officials have tried to defend the visit, Harris has taken some flak, with some political commentators and Republicans seeing the choice of Vietnam as “tone-deaf”.
The writers of ‘Veep’, a television comedy series, "could not have scripted this better," tweeted Sean Spicer, a former White House press secretary for Donald Trump.
Kabul and Saigon
In past one week, since the fall of Kabul marked another humiliating defeat for the US, many have compared the events of Kabul with Saigon, 46 years apart.
Elise Stefanik, chair of the Republican House Conference, said: "This is Joe Biden's Saigon.”
“A disastrous failure on the international stage that will never be forgotten,” he tweeted.
Republican congressman Adam Kinzinger from Illinois spoke about the terrifying scenes at Kabul’s airport this week, with “people falling off of a C17 aircraft” in an attempt to leave the country.
“This is going to make Saigon look like Disney World in comparison,” he said.
The stunning fall of Saigon to North Vietnamese forces in 1975 marked the end of the Vietnam War and symbolized the crushing defeat for Americans and their Vietnamese allies.
American troops withdrew from South Vietnam in 1973. Two years later, in 1975, they announced its surrender and Saigon was subsequently renamed Ho Chi Minh City
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