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BANGKOK: Vice President Kamala Harris told Asian leaders on Friday that the United States is committed to the region for the long haul, rejecting doubts about its engagement as China expands its clout.

Addressing a summit in Bangkok, Harris called the United States a “proud Pacific power” and said that the longstanding US network of security alliances has allowed Asia to prosper.

“The United States is here to stay,” Harris told business leaders on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, also attended by Chinese President Xi Jinping.

“Our message is clear: The United States has an enduring economic commitment to the Indo-Pacific, one that is measured not in years, but in decades and generations,” she said, using the preferred US term for the Asia-Pacific region.

President Joe Biden’s administration has focused on rallying behind allies and Harris will head from Thailand to the Philippines, where she will visit an island near waters increasingly contested by Beijing.

Xi says Asia should not become arena for ‘big power contest’

While the United States has taken a firm tone on China, some Asian officials have questioned the level of US economic engagement.

Biden has largely followed his predecessor Donald Trump in turning the page on the era of free-trade agreements, seeing them as unpopular among working-class US voters.

Harris insisted that economic partnerships in Asia were “a top priority” for the Biden administration and pointed out that the US private sector invests around $1 trillion a year in the region.

“America is a strong partner to the economies and companies of this region because America is and will remain a major engine of global growth, reinforced by our administration’s approach,” she said.

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