US Vice President Kamala Harris’s flight from Singapore to Vietnam was delayed by several hours on Tuesday due to an investigation into two possible cases of so-called Havana syndrome in Hanoi, administration officials said.
The investigation was in its early stages and officials deemed it safe for Harris to stop on schedule VietnamIt is part of her trip across Asia aimed at reassuring allies about US foreign policy amid the turbulent evacuation of US troops from Afghanistan.
Havana Syndrome is the name for a series of mysterious health incidents first reported by US diplomats and other government employees in the Cuban capital beginning in 2016.
Press Secretary Jen Psaki later said at a White House briefing that US officials “take any reported incident of Havana syndrome very seriously.”
Psaki said US officials have not yet confirmed the latest reported case, and it did not include anyone traveling with Harris. In light of the reports, “there was an assessment made of the vice president’s safety, and there was a decision that she could continue to travel with her staff,” she said.
Officials said there have been two separate cases of unexplained health incidents reported by US personnel in Vietnam over the past week. It was not immediately clear who contracted the syndrome, though officials said it was not someone who worked with the vice president or the White House.
The US Embassy in Hanoi issued a statement saying the delay was because Harris’ office had learned of a report of a “possible health anomaly recently” in the Vietnamese capital. The embassy did not provide any details but said Harris’ office had decided to travel to Hanoi “after careful evaluation”.
The US government uses a “health anomaly” to describe the syndrome. Some of those affected reported hearing a loud piercing sound and feeling intense pressure in the face. This is followed by pain, nausea, and sometimes dizziness.
Since then, similar, unexplained ills have been reported by Americans serving in other countries, including Germany, Austria, Russia and China. A variety of theories have been put forward to explain the accidents, Including targeted microwave or sonic attack, possibly as part of an espionage or hacking effort.
Of particular concern is the disclosure of at least two potential incidents in the Washington area, including one near the White House in November where an official reported vertigo. Administration officials have speculated that Russia may be involved, a suggestion Moscow has denied.
Harris was scheduled to leave for Hanoi on Tuesday evening after giving a speech at Singapore, criticizing China for its incursions into the South China Sea, and discussing supply chain issues with business leaders.
But the flight was delayed by more than three hours and Simon Sanders, Harris’ chief spokesman, declined to explain. And Sanders, without hurry, volunteered, saying Harris was “fine” even though reporters saw the vice president multiple times on Tuesday and had no reason to worry about her health.