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Vice President Kamala Harris has pushed ahead with a trip to Vietnam after delaying the visit over concerns due to an unexplained health incident potentially related to the mysterious Havana Syndrome.
Harris, eager to woo allies in a bid to counter China, arrived in the Southeast Asian country's capital on Tuesday after a three-hour delay in Singapore and an unusual statement from the US embassy in Vietnam blaming "a recent possible anomalous health incident" for the delay.
"Anomalous health incident" is a term the US 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 American officials based in the US 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 US 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.
Some 200 US officials and kin, including CIA officers, have been sickened by "Havana syndrome", CIA director William Burns has said. A US National Academy of Sciences panel in December found that a plausible theory is that "directed energy" beams caused the syndrome, he said.
The CIA sees a "very strong possibility" the syndrome is intentionally caused, and Russia could be responsible, but was withholding definitive conclusions pending further investigation. Moscow denies involvement.
The incident came as Washington faces icy relations with another global competitor, China.
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 did not align itself with one country against any other.
Earlier on Tuesday, Harris had accused 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 US 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.
"Vietnam does not align itself with one country against another."
Territorial disputes in the South China Sea should be settled according to international law and "high-level common sense".
Chinese state media on Wednesday accused Harris of seeking to drive a wedge between China and its Southeast Asian neighbours.
"While pointing a finger at China and accusing it of 'coercion' and 'intimidation', Harris wilfully ignored her own hypocrisy in attempting to coerce and intimidate regional countries to join Washington in its scheme to contain China," the state run China Daily said in an editorial.
Harris's speech was a baseless attack on China, the editorial said. "It seems that the United States' only commitment to Southeast Asia is its dedicated efforts to drive a wedge between the Southeast Asian nations and China."
The US administration has called rivalry with China "the biggest geopolitical test" of the century.