Vice President Kamala Harris was delayed from traveling to Vietnam on Tuesday after her office was made aware of a possible case of the so-called Havana syndrome, a mysterious illness that has afflicted U.S. diplomats across the world.
A statement released by the State Department said Harris’ office was made aware of “a report of a recent possible anomalous health incident,” in Vietnam’s capital city of Hanoi, referring to what the U.S. government has previously described as Havana syndrome, a string of unexplained health incidents first reported in 2016 by U.S. diplomats and embassy staff in Cuba.
“After careful assessment, the decision was made to continue with the Vice President’s trip,” the statement said, without offering any further details.
NBC News reported at least two U.S. diplomats will be medically evacuated from the country after people had “experienced anomalous acoustic incidents” over the weekend.
A State Department spokesperson declined to confirm the medical evacuations out of privacy and security concerns but said they were aware of reports of possible unexplained health incidents in Vietnam.
The spokesperson said while the agency can’t discuss individual cases, all individuals who report an unexplained health incident “get the care they need to include medevacs when appropriate.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki later emphasized no cases have been confirmed and the incident in question was reported to embassy staffers before Harris arrived in Vietnam. No one traveling with the vice president was affected, she said.
Harris was wrapping up a three-day trip in Singapore, where she delivered a foreign policy speech accusing China of coercion and intimidation for its military provocations in the South China Sea. She also announced the U.S. is offering to host the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in 2023 as a sign of U.S. commitment to the region.
Harris is scheduled to meet Vietnamese leaders including Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh to discuss regional security and economic cooperation as well as the COVID-19 pandemic.
The vice president’s first foreign trip in June to Guatemala was delayed when her plane was forced to return to Joint Base Andrews after a technical issue. Presidential and vice presidential trips frequently run behind schedule, but Harris’ delay in Singapore was more than three hours.
Congressional Republicans and Democrats have pressed the Biden administration to further investigate and identify the cause of the unknown illness as the number of cases has grown. Earlier this month a group of bipartisan senators unveiled legislation to create a position on the White House National Security Council to coordinate the federal government’s response into the matter and ensure victims receive medical treatment.
Government officials and scientists are still unclear about what’s caused the symptoms, but a National Academies of Sciences report found directed, pulsed radiofrequency energy was the most plausible explanation. Cases have been suspected among intelligence officials, diplomats and other U.S. personnel in Cuba, China, Europe and the U.S.
Most of the people who experienced Havana syndrome had an onset of a perceived loud noise, a sensation of intense pressure or vibration, nausea or headaches, according to the report.