U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken postponed his scheduled visit to Thailand Wednesday because a member of the traveling U.S. press team tested positive for COVID-19.

Blinken was set to leave Malaysia for Thailand Thursday as part of a U.S. effort to strengthen relations in a region where China’s influence continues to grow.

 

Wednesday’s development forced the top U.S. diplomat to cut short his first Southeast Asia trip since U.S. President Joe Biden took office in January. The trip began with a visit to the Indonesian capital of Jakarta.  

Blinken informed Thai Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai of his decision Wednesday not to visit as scheduled, according to U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price. 

“He explained that, in order to mitigate the risk of the spread of COVID-19 and to prioritize the health and safety of the U.S. traveling party and those they would otherwise come into contact with, the Secretary would be returning to Washington, D.C. out of an abundance of caution,” Price said in a statement.

Price said Blinken invited Thailand’s foreign minister to visit Washington “at the earliest opportunity and noted that he looked forward to traveling to Thailand as soon as possible.” 

The U.S. embassy in Kuala Lumpur said in a statement it informed the Malaysian government of the infection and confirmed the other members of the U.S. traveling group tested negative when they arrived in Malaysia.

VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching contributed to this report from Kuala Lumpur.

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