United Nations – President Joe Biden in his first address before the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday called on the world’s countries to firmly address the global issues of the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and celebration of human rights abuses . He condemned the military conflict and insisted the US does not want “a new Cold War” with China.
The president said that halting US military operations in Afghanistan last month, ending America’s longest war, sets the table for his administration to turn its attention to intense diplomacy at a moment when the world is facing crises. There is no shortage.
“In order to do something for our people, we must also engage deeply with the rest of the world,” he said.
He continued: “We are ushering in a new era of relentless diplomacy by harnessing the power of our development aid to invest in new ways to uplift people around the world.”
Biden offered a strong endorsement of the relevance and ambition of the United Nations at a difficult moment in history, and sought to reassure wary allies of US cooperation after disagreements in recent months.
He also pledged to double US financial aid to help poor countries switch to clean energy and deal with the “merciless” effects of climate change. That means increasing the aid to about $11.4 billion a year. Five months ago that amount doubled to $5.7 billion annually.
As part of the fight against climate change, wealthy countries have for many years pledged to spend $100 billion a year in climate aid, but they are short by $20 billion a year, a new study shows. Biden said his new commitment would help wealthy countries reach their goals.
The $100 billion target is important because there is a dramatic rich-poor nation gap in climate talks. Developing nations and others are reluctant to stop emissions of heat-trapping gases without help from developed countries, which, in the words of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, are “the people causing problems.”
Biden is facing a healthy measure of skepticism from allies during his week of high-level diplomacy. The early months of his presidency included a series of difficult moments with the Allies, who were hoping for more cooperation from Biden after four years of Donald Trump’s “America first” approach to foreign policy.
Eight months into his presidency, Biden has fallen out of sync with the allies over the chaotic end of the US war in Afghanistan. They have faced differences of opinion with developing countries about sharing coronavirus vaccines and pandemic travel restrictions. And there are questions about the best way to respond to military and economic moves by China.
After announcing plans to equip Britain with Australia as well as nuclear-powered submarines, Biden found himself in the middle of a new diplomatic dispute with France, the United States’ oldest ally. The move is expected to give Australia a better ability to patrol the Pacific amid growing concern about the Chinese military’s increasingly aggressive strategy, but it also cost Australia at least $66 billion to sell diesel-powered submarines. Retained the French defense contract.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Monday that the episode resulted in a “crisis of trust” with the US.
Biden wasn’t so worried. When asked by a reporter on Tuesday arriving at the United Nations how he plans to mend ties with the French, Biden responded with two words: “They are great.”
Ahead of Biden’s arrival in New York, EU Council President Charles Michel on Monday called on the Biden administration to leave Europe “out of the game in the Indo-Pacific region” and ignore the underlying elements of the trans-Atlantic alliance – transparency and loyalty. severely criticized. In the withdrawal from Afghanistan and the announcement of the US-UK-Australia alliance.
In an interview ahead of his meeting with Biden, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told The Associated Press that he was concerned about “completely dysfunctional” US-China relations and the possibility that it could lead to a new Cold War. Is.
The Secretary-General did not hold back his concerns about US-China tensions as he addressed leaders at the opening of Tuesday’s gathering. “When the world’s two largest economies are pitted against each other, it will be impossible to address the dramatic economic and development challenges,” he said.
Biden sought to ease concerns about a further escalation of China’s tensions, saying: “We are not seeking a new Cold War or a world divided into rigid factions.”
Broadly, he stressed the need for world leaders to work together on the COVID-19 pandemic, meet past obligations to address climate change, address emerging technology issues, and strengthen trade rules .
“We will choose to build a better future. We, you and I, have the will and ability to make it better. Ladies and gentlemen, we can’t waste any more time,” he said. “
Biden plans to limit his time at the United Nations due to coronavirus concerns. He met with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in New York after his speech, but was prepared to shift the remainder of the week’s diplomacy to virtual and Washington settings.
Morrison and Biden did not comment on the flap with the Frenchman when they briefly appeared before the media at the start of their meeting. Morrison, however, praised Biden for understanding the complexities of the situation in the Indo-Pacific.
“There’s no doubt you get it,” the prime minister told Biden.
At a virtual COVID-19 summit Biden is hosting Wednesday, leaders will be urged to advance vaccine-sharing commitments, address oxygen shortages around the world and tackle other important pandemic-related issues.
The president was also scheduled to meet with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the White House on Tuesday, and invited the prime ministers of Australia, India and Japan – part of a Pacific alliance known as the “Quad” – on Friday. in Washington. In addition to the Quad leaders gathering, Biden will hold one-on-one meetings with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.
Biden defended his decision to end the US war in Afghanistan, a chaotic withdrawal of US troops that disappointed some allies and hurt his position at home. He called on the world to make the use of force “our tool of last resort, not our first” going forward.
“Today, many of our major concerns cannot be resolved or even addressed by force of arms,” he said. “Bombs and bullets cannot protect against COVID-19 or its future forms.”
Madani reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Seth Borenstein and Darlene Superville in Washington, Jonathan Lemire in New York and Edith Lederer at the United Nations contributed to this report.