AF2 landed in Anchorage, AK at 12:54 am local time for refueling after roughly 7.5 hours of flying time.
Shortly after AF2 took off from JBA, the VP came back to talk to reporters OTR for about 7 mins.
A group of senior administration officials then briefed the pool on background for 10 mins and took some questions. Some rough quotes/notes from the briefing attributable to senior admin officials.
“The vice president’s trip is in fact about strengthening and deepening our partnerships with Singapore, Vietnam, Southeast Asia and the Indo-Pacific region more broadly, and as you’ll hear Vice President Harris say often in this trip, she believes we’re in a new era — the global pandemic has in fact been a tipping point in that new era.”
“The vice president recognizes that the world is more interconnected and interdependent than before, which is why she believes so strongly in our partnerships, particularly in our partnerships in Southeast Asia and the Indo-Pacific.”
“The vice president will be focused on three keys areas during this trip — we call it the three-legged stool, that is security, economic partnership and global health. She will talk about addressing the threat of climate change and reaffirm our nation’s values and commitment to the rules-based international water, workers rights and human rights.
“The vice president will make clear throughout the trip that we do have an enduring commitment to the region.”
Q on what specific claims about China’s claims in the south china sea is VP planning to raise — Officials said they didn’t want to get into too much detail about what she would be raising.
“We believe that the Chinese claims in the South China Sea were determined to be unlawful…more broadly, we believe that there has been a pattern of behavior that has put tremendous pressure on countries in the region. But I think it’s important to see this trip in the context of what we’re for: We have long been present and very engaged in Southeast Asia, our economies are closely intertwined, we have a large security presence in the region, and I think that this reflects the long-standing U.S. role in the region and the long-standing partnerships.”
“At the same time, we recognize that as the world has evolved, it’s very important that we redouble our efforts to be present, to strengthen the partnerships and to work more closely with key countries in the region.”
Q on deliverables on this issue — Officials declined to discuss deliverables, but said: “Theres no substitute for in-person exchanges. And the commitment of the vice president going to the region shows the pattern that we’ve had from the beginning of the administration of significant engagement and connection with the region, and I think we’re going to be expanding on that.”
Q: VP mentioned speaking to the CEO of GM Mary Barra about supply chain issues. Has she spoken with other business leaders in advance of her trip on this issue?
“The model of the engagement that the VP employs as she tackles a number of issues is really about building coalitions…It’s not just specific to this trip but frankly throughout her — I’d argue since the beginning of the administration.”
“The trip builds on work that the vice president, the president and the entire administration has been doing from the beginning.”
Other biz leaders she has spoken to on this?Officials note she recently spoke with MasterCard’s Ajay Banga.
Q regarding some criticism that the admin is playing catching up in the region — why didn’t outreach start earlier?
“From the beginning the administration has made clear the focus on the Indo-Pacific, and engagements from the leader level were done virtually…It’s worth noting that the covid situation in the region has made travel much more challenging. “
Officials listed travel to the region from other admin officials and noted that in virtual meetings, the countries that participated have expressed relief that the U.S. was engaged and said they were impressed.
“This is just part of it and we’re going to do more.”
Also for awareness, per overview from the briefing — VP is scheduled to land Sunday roughly at 10:30 am Singapore Standard Time. We will be covid tested upon arrival and then will quarantine in our hotel room for up to 6 hours while we wait for our results. There will be a briefing for the pool via phone during that period. On Monday, the briefing for the pool will be in person.
Per VP’s office, senior staff traveling aboard AF2 are:
- Tina Flournoy, Assistant to the President & Chief of Staff to the VP
- Mike Fuchs, Special Assistant to the President & Deputy Chief of Staff to the VP
- Phil Gordon, Special Assistant to the President & Deputy National Security Advisor to the VP
- Josh Hsu, Special Assistant to the President & Counsel to the VP
- Edgard Kagan, Special Assistant to the President & Senior Director for East Asia and Southeast Asia in the National Security Council
- Kin Moy, Senior Bureau Chief for East Asia and Pacific Affairs at the Department of State
- Symone Sanders, Deputy Assistant to the President & Senior Advisor and Chief Spokesperson for the VP
AF2 will be wheels up for the next refueling stop, Tokyo, in about two hours. We have another 7-hour flight ahead of us (and then another 7-hour flight after that!)