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The U.S. secretary of state cuts his Asia trip short after a journalist on his plane tests positive.

todayDecember 15, 2021

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KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken cut short his trip to Southeast Asia on Wednesday after a journalist traveling in his delegation tested positive for the coronavirus.

A State Department spokesman said Mr. Blinken has tested negative at every stop on diplomatic visits over the past week to Britain, Indonesia and Malaysia. He had scheduled meetings for Thursday with senior officials in Bangkok, the Thai capital, but canceled to return to the United States.

Ned Price, the State Department spokesman, said Mr. Blinken had called the Thai deputy prime minister, Don Pramudwinai, to “express his deep regret” over the change in plan.

“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,” Mr. Price said in a statement as the delegation was leaving Kuala Lumpur.

The journalist who tested positive for the virus was part of the small group of news media personnel who travel with the secretary of state. The journalist, who was not identified for privacy reasons, tested negative in Jakarta on Monday but then received a positive test for the virus after arriving in Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital, on Tuesday night.

Mr. Price said the journalist who tested positive would remain in Kuala Lumpur for mandatory isolation while the rest of Mr. Blinken’s entourage traveled on.

Foreign governments have stepped up testing requirements for traveling diplomatic delegations as the Delta and Omicron variants have surged around the world.

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todayDecember 15, 2021