Probable Havana Syndrome Delays Harris Trip to Vietnam

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HANOI (AP) – US Vice President Kamala Harris’ trip from Singapore to Vietnam was delayed for several hours on Tuesday by an investigation into two possible cases of the so-called Havana Syndrome in Hanoi, officials said. administration.

The investigation was in its early stages and officials felt it was safe for Harris to make his planned stopover in Vietnam, part of his trip through Asia meant to reassure the allies about U.S. foreign policy in the amid the tumultuous evacuation of US forces from Afghanistan. Havana Syndrome is the name of a series of mysterious health incidents first reported by U.S. diplomats and other government employees in the Cuban capital as of 2016.

US officials “take any reported Havana Syndrome incidents seriously,” press secretary Jen Psaki said during a White House press briefing later Tuesday.

U.S. authorities had yet to confirm the last reported case, and it did not involve anyone traveling with Harris, Psaki said. In light of the reports, “a security assessment of the vice president was carried out and it was decided that she could continue to travel with her staff,” Psaki said.

There have been two separate cases of unexplained health incidents reported by U.S. personnel in Vietnam over the past week, officials said. It was not immediately clear who was affected by the syndrome, although officials said it was not someone who worked for the Vice President or the White House, according to officials, who were not. authorized to speak publicly about an ongoing investigation.

The US Embassy in Hanoi issued a statement saying the delay was due to Harris’s office learning of a report of a “recent possible abnormal health incident” in the hospital. Vietnamese capital. The embassy did not provide any details, but said Harris’s office decided to travel to Hanoi “after careful assessment.”

The US government uses “abnormal health incident” to describe the syndrome. Some of those affected report hearing a loud piercing sound and feeling intense pressure on the face. Pain, nausea and dizziness sometimes followed.

Similar and unexplained health problems have since been reported by Americans serving in other countries, including Germany, Austria, Russia and China. Various theories have been put forward to explain the incidents, including targeted microwaves or a sonic attack, possibly as part of an espionage or hacking effort.

Particularly alarming are the revelations of at least two possible incidents in the Washington area, including a case near the White House in November in which an official reported dizziness. Administration officials speculated that Russia might be involved, a suggestion Moscow denied.

Harris was due to leave for Hanoi on Tuesday evening after delivering a speech in Singapore, lambasting China for its forays into the South China Sea and discussing supply chain issues with business leaders.

But the flight was delayed by more than three hours and Symone Sanders, chief spokesperson for Harris, declined to explain. Uninvited, Sanders said Harris was “fine” although reporters saw the vice president several times on Tuesday and had no reason to be concerned about her health.

Congress has sounded the alarm on such attacks, finding scarce bipartisan support in the House and Senate for the continued government-wide investigation of the syndrome, the response and millions of people to support medical monitoring and treatment of US personnel.

The Biden administration faces new pressure to solve the mystery as the number of reported cases of possible attacks has risen sharply. But scientists and government officials do not yet know who could be behind the attacks, whether the symptoms may have been inadvertently caused by surveillance equipment – or whether the incidents were in fact attacks.

Whatever the conclusion of an official review, it could have huge consequences. Confirmation that an American adversary carried out damaging attacks on American personnel would trigger calls for a vigorous response from the United States.

For now, the administration gives assurances that it is taking the matter seriously, is investigating aggressively and will ensure that those affected receive good medical care.

A key analysis identified “directed and pulsed radio frequency energy” as the most plausible culprit. Published in December by the National Academy of Sciences, the report states that a radiofrequency attack could alter brain function without causing “significant structural damage.” But the panel was unable to make a definitive conclusion on how the U.S. personnel might have been affected.

And a declassified 2018 State Department report cited “a lack of senior leadership, ineffective communications and systemic disorganization” in the response to the Havana cases. The report says the cause of the injuries was “currently unknown”. The document was published by the National Security Archive at George Washington University.

Chris Miller, the acting Defense Secretary in the last few months of the Trump administration, has created a Pentagon team to investigate the alleged attacks. This was after meeting a soldier late last year who described how, while serving in a country Miller would not have identified, he heard a “screaming” sound and then had a terrible headache.

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Lemire reported from Lowell, Mass. Additional reports provided by Associated Press editors Matthew Lee and Lisa Mascaro in Washington

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.


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