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First on CNN: Harris to lead funeral delegation for Japan’s former Prime Minister Abe

<i>Paras Griffin/Getty Images</i><br/>Vice President Kamala Harris speaks onstage during the 2022 Essence Festival of Culture at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center on July 2 in New Orleans
Getty Images for Essence
Paras Griffin/Getty Images
Vice President Kamala Harris speaks onstage during the 2022 Essence Festival of Culture at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center on July 2 in New Orleans

By Jasmine Wright, CNN

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

“Her visit will honor the legacy of Prime Minister Abe and underscore the importance of his leadership in championing the alliance between the United States and Japan and advancing a free and open Indo-Pacific,” the White House official said.

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

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

In both places, Harris will meet with “senior government officials and civil society representatives in a series of engagements that will highlight the strength of the United States’ alliances with Japan and the Republic of Korea,” the official said.

A source familiar with the planning told CNN that Harris is expected to meet with both Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and South Korea’s 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 that he was “stunned, outraged and deeply saddened,” by the news of the death of his “friend.”

“Above all, [Abe] cared deeply about the Japanese people and dedicated his life to their service. Even at the moment he was attacked, he was engaged in the work of democracy,” Biden said in a statement released by the White House. Biden ordered that the American flag at the White House and on other federal grounds be flown at half-staff for two days following his death and visited the Japanese embassy to sign a condolence book later the same day.

And it will be the vice president’s second time to Asia since taking office. Harris is the first Black and South Asian woman to hold the office in the US.

In August 2021, Harris visited Southeast Asia in the midst of the administration’s first major foreign policy crisis after the US’ withdrawal from Afghanistan. And her departure from Singapore to the second stop of Vietnam was delayed by several hours after her office was informed of a “report of a recent possible anomalous health incident.” That term is the way that the government usually refers to the mysterious Havana syndrome that has sickened hundreds of US officials over the past few years.

Harris held a series of events meant to shore up relationships 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 this trip as building upon the important work done during her first trip and another foray onto the world stage, the source told CNN.

In addition to Asia, Harris has traveled to Latin America and Europe multiple times. She’s also engaged with more than 100 world leaders while in office.

Biden ventured to Asia in early 2022, using a high level summit of Indo-Pacific leaders in part to warn China over their posture in Taiwan. Since his trip, tensions continue to rise in the US-China relationship. China spent several days in August conducting military drills that essentially encircled Taiwan after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taipei.

Biden was pressed over the weekend on if he’ll 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 will signal “our enduring commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific, and our shared economic and security interests in the region and around the world.”

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