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Blinken ends Southeast Asia trip early after journalist tests positive for COVID-19

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Washington — Secretary of State Antony Blinken is cutting short a three-country swing through Southeast Asia after a member of the press traveling with the secretary tested positive for COVID-19, the State Department said Wednesday.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said Blinken's delegation learned of the positive COVID-19 test through routine PCR testing on Wednesday morning upon arriving in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The person, an unidentified journalist traveling with Blinken, tested negative during a previous stop in Jakarta and will remain in isolation.

The secretary of state and senior staff all tested negative for COVID-19 after getting tested in Kuala Lumpur, Price said.

The U.S. embassy in Malaysia said the member of Blinken's traveling party who tested positive was not involved and did not participate in the secretary's activities in Kuala Lumpur.

In a separate statement, Price said Blinken spoke with Thai Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai and "expressed his deep regret to the foreign minister that he would not be able to visit Bangkok this week" in an effort to mitigate the risk of spreading COVID-19. The secretary will be returning to Washington "out of an abundance of caution," Price said.

"The secretary extended an invitation for the foreign minister to visit Washington, D.C. at the earliest opportunity and noted that he looked forward to traveling to Thailand as soon as possible," Price said. "They affirmed that they would use the upcoming engagements to further deepen the U.S.-Thai alliance."

Blinken departed Washington on December 9 to attend a Group of 7 meeting in the United Kingdom and then traveled to Southeast Asia to meet with officials in Indonesia and Malaysia. He was poised to end his trip with visits to Thailand and Honolulu, Hawaii, where he was due to meet with U.S. Indo-Pacific Command Commander Admiral John Aquilino on Friday, though those stops were scrapped. 

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