Vice President Kamala Harris departed Singapore more than three hours late on Tuesday because of concerns about “an anomalous health incident” in Hanoi, her next destination, the State Department said.
“The vice president’s traveling delegation was delayed from departing Singapore because the vice president’s office was made aware of a report of a recent possible anomalous health incident in Hanoi, Vietnam,” the U.S. embassy in Hanoi said in a statement. “After careful assessment, the decision was made to continue with the vice president’s trip.”
The State Department has frequently used the phrase “anomalous health incidents” to describe so-called Havana Syndrome, which has afflicted dozens of U.S. diplomats and intelligence officials who describe feeling ill and other unusual physical sensations after hearing strange sounds. The U.S. has not determined a cause for the affliction.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the case in Hanoi isn’t a “confirmed case” of Havana Syndrome but that the administration takes it “quite seriously.” The case was “from several days ago” involving someone who wasn’t traveling with Harris, she said.
Harris had been scheduled to leave Singapore for Vietnam, the second leg of a trip to Southeast Asia, at 4 p.m. local time. Reporters traveling with the vice president were abruptly sent back to the Shangri-La hotel shortly after 3:30 p.m. local time after being loaded into vans for the planned departure from Paya Lebar Air Base. Her plane eventually took off at around 7:30 p.m. local time.
While presidential and vice presidential trips can often run behind schedule, a delay of that length is unusual.
In June, Harris’s arrival in Guatemala was delayed when her original plane was forced to return to Joint Base Andrews with a technical issue. A replacement plane was swapped in.
The vice president has so far used the Asia trip to emphasize the U.S. commitment to the region and to warn about the threat China poses, particularly regarding territorial disputes.
But the timing of the visit overseas has left Harris defending President Joe Biden’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan. On Tuesday, she called the move “courageous and right,” while saying the U.S. was “laser-focused” on evacuating U.S. citizens and vulnerable Afghans.