HANOI – (AP) – U.S. officials continue to investigate two possible cases of so-called Havana Syndrome health incidents that delayed Vice President Kamala Harris’s trip from Singapore to Vietnam.
The investigation was still in its infancy and officials believed it was certain that Harris was making her planned stopover in Vietnam after taking a break for a few hours on Tuesday. Havana Syndrome is the name given to a series of mysterious health incidents that were first reported in the Cuban capital by American diplomats and other government officials since 2016. Harris reassures Asian allies on her trip after the turbulent evacuation of US forces from Afghanistan.
US officials have not yet confirmed the most recently reported case of Havana Syndrome, and it did not affect anyone traveling with Harris, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday. In light of the reports, “an assessment of the vice president’s safety has been made and it has been decided that she can travel on with her staff,” said Psaki.
According to US officials, there were two separate cases of unexplained health incidents reported by US personnel in Vietnam last week. It wasn’t immediately clear who was affected by the syndrome, although officials said it wasn’t someone working for the Vice President or the White House who was not empowered to speak publicly about an ongoing investigation, according to officials.
Harris appeared before US diplomats in Hanoi on Wednesday to sign a lease for a new embassy there. She did not go directly into the Havana Syndrome situation, but thanked those who work for the United States around the world.
“Here is my message to the embassy staff: Thank you. The people who work in our embassies around the world are exceptional officials who represent the best of what the United States believes in itself and seeks to be a good neighbor to our partners and allies around the world “, she said .
On Wednesday, Harris highlighted the announcement that the US will send an additional 1 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine to Vietnam, bringing the total US vaccine donation to that country to 6 million doses.
The U.S. will also allocate $ 23 million to help Vietnam expand vaccine distribution and access, fight the pandemic, and prepare for future disease threats. The Department of Defense is also supplying 77 vaccine storage freezers across the country.
Some of those with Havana Syndrome report hearing a loud piercing noise and feeling severe pressure on their faces. Sometimes pain, nausea, and dizziness follow.
Similar unexplained health complaints have since been reported by Americans working in other countries, including Germany, Austria, Russia, and China. A variety of theories have been put forward to explain the incidents, including targeted microwaves or sonic attacks, possibly as part of an espionage or hacking operation.
Of particular concern are revelations of at least two possible incidents in the Washington area, including a case near the White House in November where an official reported fraud. Government officials speculated about Russia’s possible involvement, which Moscow has denied.
Congress has raised the alarm over such incidents, and has found rare bipartisan support in the House and Senate for the continued government-wide investigation of the syndrome, response, and support to American personnel under medical surveillance and treatment.
The Biden government is facing renewed pressure to solve the mystery as the number of reported cases of possible attacks has soared. However, scientists and government officials are still unsure who could be behind the attacks, whether the symptoms could have been inadvertently caused by surveillance devices – or whether the attacks were actually attacks.
Lemire reported from Lowell, Massachusetts. Additional coverage from Associated Press writers Matthew Lee and Lisa Mascaro in Washington
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