First on CNN: Harris to lead funeral delegation for former Japanese Prime Minister Abe

By Jasmine Wright, CNN

Vice President Kamala Harris will lead the US presidential delegation to Japan for the state funeral of assassinated former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a White House official told CNN.

“His visit will honor Prime Minister Abe’s legacy and underscore the importance of his leadership in upholding the U.S.-Japan alliance and promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific,” he said. the White House official.

Additional members of the delegation will be announced at a later date, the official added. And local media in Asia reported last month that US officials had begun preparing the ground for the vice president’s visit.

Harris will be in Asia from September 25-29, traveling first to Tokyo, Japan and then making a second stopover in Seoul, South Korea.

At both locations, Harris will meet “senior government officials and civil society representatives in a series of engagements that will highlight the strength of U.S. alliances with Japan and the Republic of Korea,” the official said. responsible.

A source familiar with the planning told CNN that Harris is expected to meet with both Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol.

President Joe Biden asked Harris to lead the delegation, the source said.

Abe, 67, died in July after being shot while giving a campaign speech on a street in Nara, Japan. Biden, at the time, mourned his death saying he was “stunned, outraged and deeply saddened.” by the news of the death of his “friend”.

“Above all, [Abe] cared deeply for the Japanese people and devoted his life to their service. Even at the time he was attacked, he was engaged in democracy work,” Biden said in a statement released by the White House. Biden ordered the American flag at the White House and other federal grounds to be flown at half-mast for two days after his death and visited the Japanese Embassy to sign a book of condolences later the same day .

And it will be the second time the vice president has visited Asia since taking office. Harris is the first black and South Asian woman to hold this position in the United States.

In August 2021, Harris traveled to Southeast Asia amid the administration’s first major foreign policy crisis following the United States’ withdrawal from Afghanistan. And his departure from Singapore to the second leg of Vietnam was delayed for several hours after his office was informed of a “report of a possible recent abnormal health incident”. This term is how the government generally refers to the mysterious Havana Syndrome that has sickened hundreds of US officials in recent years.

Harris hosted a series of events intended to strengthen relations with regional partners and focused on regional security issues amid concerns over China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea; economic priorities, including supply chain issues like global chip production; climate change; and the Covid-19 pandemic. Officials see the trip as building on the important work done on his first trip and another foray onto the world stage, the source told CNN.

In addition to Asia, Harris has traveled extensively to Latin America and Europe. She has also engaged with more than 100 world leaders during her tenure.

Biden ventured into Asia in early 2022, using in part a high-level summit of Indo-Pacific leaders to warn China about his stance in Taiwan. Since his trip, tensions have continued to mount in US-China relations. China spent several days in August conducting military exercises that essentially surrounded Taiwan after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taipei.

Biden was pressed over the weekend whether he would see Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G20 summit later this year in Indonesia, telling reporters, “If he’s there, I’m sure I’ll see him.”

But for Harris’ trip later this month, the White House official said her events would signal “our enduring commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific, and our common economic and security interests in the region and the world”.

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