Kamala Harris’s Vietnam trip delayed by possible Havana syndrome among diplomats
Potential cases of the mysterious Havana syndrome among US personnel in Hanoi have briefly delayed Vice-President Kamala Harris’s trip to Vietnam.
Kamala Harris’s flight from Singapore to Hanoi was delayed due to the security scare
US officials say two potential cases of Havana syndrome have been detected in Vietnam this week
There are suggestions the mystery illness is the result of espionage
The mystery illness, which has been reported among US diplomatic staff and personnel around the world, has no definitive cause, but reports have suggested attacks using microwave or radio wave weapons could be behind the illness.
Harris was set to depart for Hanoi on Tuesday evening after delivering a speech in Singapore, but the flight was delayed for more than three hours.
The US embassy in Hanoi later issued a statement saying the delay was because Ms Harris’s office learned about a “recent possible anomalous health incident” in the Vietnamese capital.
The embassy provided no details, but said Ms Harris’s office decided to travel to Hanoi “after careful assessment”.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said US officials “take any reported incident of Havana syndrome seriously”, but the illness was not reported among any of Ms Harris’s staff.
“There was an assessment done of the safety of the Vice-President, and there was a decision made that she could continue travel along with her staff,” she said.
US officials have not yet confirmed whether the reports should be classified as Havana syndrome.
What is Havana syndrome?
Havana syndrome refers to a series of symptoms first experienced by US personnel in Cuba’s capital, Havana, in 2016.
Some affected people reported hearing a loud piercing sound and feeling intense pressure in their face.
Pain, nausea, and dizziness sometimes follow.
Similar unexplained health ailments have since been reported by Americans serving in other countries, including Germany, Austria, Russia and China.
A variety of theories have been floated to explain the incidents, including targeted microwaves or sonic attacks, perhaps as part of an espionage or hacking effort.
A 2020 report from the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine found that “directed, pulsed radio frequency energy” was the most plausible explanation for the symptoms.
But the report also left open other explanations, including “the possibility of multiple causal factors including psychological and social factors”.
US Congress has raised alarms over the potential attacks, finding rare bipartisan support in the House and Senate for continued government-wide investigation into the syndrome, as well as millions in support for medical monitoring and treatment of American personnel.
US President Joe Biden’s administration is facing new pressure to resolve the mystery as the number of reported cases of possible attacks has sharply grown.
But scientists and government officials are not yet certain about who might have been behind any attacks, if the symptoms could have been caused inadvertently by surveillance equipment, or if the incidents were actually attacks.