Biden aims to recruit allies to fight climate, COVID, more

UNITED NATIONS (PA) – President Joe Biden on Tuesday used his first address to the United Nations General Assembly to declare that the world stands at a “historical turning point” and must act swiftly and cooperatively to address the lingering issues of the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and human rights violations.

Amid mounting tensions in China, Biden also said the United States “is not looking for a new cold war.”

Without directly mentioning China, Biden acknowledged the growing concerns about rising tensions between the two nations. But he said, “We are not looking for a new cold war or a world divided into rigid blocs. “

The president noted his decision to end America’s longest war last month, in Afghanistan, and paved the way for his administration to divert U.S. attention to intensive diplomacy without a dearth of crises. that the world is facing. He said he was motivated by the belief that “to be of service to our own people, we must also engage deeply with the rest of the world”.

“We have ended 20 years of conflict in Afghanistan,” Biden said. “And as we close this period of relentless warfare, we usher in a new era of relentless diplomacy by using the power of our development assistance to invest in new ways of uplifting people around the world.”

Biden, who arrived in New York on Monday evening to meet with Secretary-General Antonio Guterres ahead of Tuesday’s speech, wholeheartedly endorsed the body’s relevance and ambition at a difficult time in history.

The president, in brief remarks at the start of his meeting with Guterres, retracted his mantra that “America is back” – a phrase that has become a presidential shorthand meant to encapsulate his promise to take a radically different approach. with his allies than his predecessor Donald Trump. In his remarks, he said the United States was “back to the table”.

“We will lead not only with the example of our power, but God willing with the power of our example,” Biden said Monday night.

But the president faced a healthy measure of allied skepticism during his week of high-level diplomacy. The first months of his presidency included a series of difficult times with friendly nations expecting greater cooperation from Biden after four years of Trump’s “America First” approach to foreign policy.

Eight months into his presidency, Biden has been out of step with his allies over the chaotic end of the US war in Afghanistan. He has faced differences over how to share coronavirus vaccines with the developing world and over travel restrictions in the event of a pandemic. And there are questions about how best to respond to China’s military and economic measures.

Biden also finds himself in the midst of a new diplomatic row with France, the United States’ oldest ally, after announcing his intention – along with Britain – to equip Australia with nuclear-powered submarines. . The move is expected to give Australia better patrol capabilities in the Pacific amid growing concerns over the Chinese military’s increasingly aggressive tactics, but it upended a French defense contract worth at least $ 66 billion to sell diesel submarines to Australia.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Monday that there was a “crisis of confidence” with the United States following the episode.

Biden played down tensions with France. Asked by a reporter as he arrived at the UN on Tuesday how he planned to mend relations with the French, Biden simply replied: “They are great.”

Prior to Biden’s arrival, EU Council President Charles Michel sharply criticized the Biden administration for leaving Europe “out of the game in the Indo-Pacific region” and ignoring the underlying elements of the transatlantic alliance – transparency and loyalty – in the withdrawal from Afghanistan. and the announcement of the US-UK-Australia alliance.

Despite such differences, Biden hoped to use his address to the General Assembly as well as a series of one-on-one and larger meetings with world leaders this week to advocate for American leadership on the world stage.

“There are points of disagreement, including when we disagree with decisions other countries are making, decision points when countries disagree with decisions we are making,” White House Press, Jen Psaki. “But the most important point here… is that we are committed to these alliances, and that still requires the work of every president, of every world leader.”

In an interview before his meeting with Biden, Guterres told The Associated Press that he was concerned about the “completely dysfunctional” US-China relationship and that it could lead to a new Cold War. Psaki said the administration disagreed with the assessment, adding that the US-China relationship was “not one of conflict but of competition.”

The secretary-general did not abandon his concerns over US-China tensions as he addressed the leaders at the opening of Tuesday’s meeting. “It will be impossible to meet dramatic economic and development challenges, when the two largest economies in the world are at odds with each other”

Biden has strongly insisted on the need for world leaders to work together on the COVID-19 pandemic, meet past obligations to tackle climate change, deal with emerging technology issues and strengthen trade rules.

“We will choose to build a better future. We, you and I have the will and the ability to make it better. Ladies and gentlemen, we cannot afford to waste any more time.… We can do it.”

The Biden administration on Monday announced plans to ease restrictions on overseas travel to the United States from November. The United States has largely restricted travel by non-U.S. Citizens from Europe since the start of the pandemic, an issue that had become a point of contention in transatlantic relations.

The new rules will allow foreigners to enter if they have proof of vaccination and a negative COVID-19 test, the White House said on Monday.

Biden planned to limit his time at the United Nations due to coronavirus concerns. He was due to meet with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in New York before moving the rest of the week’s diplomacy to virtual settings and Washington.

At a COVID-19 virtual summit Biden is hosting on Wednesday, leaders will be asked to step up vaccine-sharing commitments, address global oxygen shortages and address other critical issues related to the pandemic.

The president is also due to meet with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday at the White House, and invited the prime ministers of Australia, India and Japan – part of a Pacific alliance known as the “Quad” – in Washington on Friday. In addition to the Quad Leaders’ Gathering, Biden will sit for one-on-one meetings with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.

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Madhani reported from Washington. Associated Press editors Jonathan Lemire in New York and Edith Lederer at the United Nations contributed to this report.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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