US President Joe Biden defended the chaotic US withdrawal from Afghanistan in a speech to the United Nations, arguing that it was a necessary step to guide US policy to focus on the global challenge of anti-democratic regimes, the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change. .
The United Nations General Assembly meets in person for the first time in two years, but with limited capacities and precautions against epidemics.
“We have ended 20 years of conflict in Afghanistan, and while we are ending an era of relentless war, we are opening a new era of relentless diplomacy,” Biden said on his first appearance as president at the assembly.
Facing criticism of the Afghan withdrawal, Biden has vowed to defend vital US national interests, but said “the mission must be clear and achievable”, and the US military “should not be used as an answer to every problem we see around the world”.
– RTÉ News (@rtenews) September 21, 2021
Biden said the United States would be prepared to use force “if necessary,” but that military force should be “an instrument of last resort.”
“The mission must be clear and achievable, with the informed consent of the American people, and in partnership with our allies whenever possible,” he added.
Biden had hoped to make a compelling case that the United States remains a reliable ally to its partners around the world after years of the ‘America First’ policies pursued by his Republican predecessor, Donald Trump.
Biden said the world faces a critical decade and that meeting a variety of challenges “will depend on our ability to recognize our common humanity.”
“Instead of continuing to fight the wars of the past, we are focusing our eyes” on challenges such as the global pandemic, addressing climate change and cyber threats and managing the shift in “global power dynamics,” he said.
“This will make the United States a leader in public climate finance,” Biden said, adding that he will work with Congress to achieve that goal.
The United Nations says there is a $20 billion shortfall in the $100 billion fund that developed countries have promised to mobilize annually from 2020 to 2025 to help poor countries adapt to climate change.
“Our collective future will depend on our ability to recognize our common humanity and work together.”
In his address to the United Nations, US President Joe Biden told leaders that the world must work together like never before to address global challenges | https://t.co/iJ9kIsePco pic.twitter.com/MnzGDKHdQt
– RTÉ News (@rtenews) September 21, 2021
Biden also said the United States is not seeking a “new Cold War,” referring to relations with China.
The Biden administration has identified a rising and authoritarian China as the greatest challenge of the twenty-first century, but in his first appearance at the United Nations he made clear he was not trying to sow divisions.
“We are not seeking a new Cold War or a world divided into rigid blocks,” Biden said.
“The United States is ready to work with any country that steps forward and seeks a peaceful resolution to share challenges even if we have severe differences in other areas.”
Biden did not mention China by name, other than expressing concern about human rights in Xinjiang, where experts say more than 1 million Uighurs and other predominantly Muslim residents are imprisoned.
Chinese President Xi Jinping is scheduled to address the General Assembly later today via video link in light of the precautions for Covid-19.
Opening the General Assembly, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned of growing divisions between the United States and China and urged dialogue.
“I fear that our world is creeping toward two different sets of economic, commercial, financial and technological bases, two different approaches to developing artificial intelligence — and ultimately two different military and geopolitical strategies,” Mr. Guterres said.
“This is a recipe for problems. It will be much less predictable than the Cold War.”
Biden will end a busy diplomatic week with an unprecedented four-way summit in the White House with the leaders of Australia, India and Japan – the so-called “Quartet” widely seen as a united front against China.
But his efforts to shore up alliances faced one surprising and powerful obstacle: France.
Paris recalled its ambassador to Washington Furious after Australia scrapped a multibillion-dollar contract for French conventional submarines in favor of US nuclear versions as part of a new alliance announced with Washington and London.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said he would not meet face-to-face in New York with US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, calling Biden’s diplomatic style “brutal”.
The White House appears confident in its ability to de-escalate the row, as Biden is scheduled to speak by phone with French President Emmanuel Macron, who will not attend the United Nations General Assembly due to Covid precautions.
But German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, who publicly rejoiced at Biden’s defeat of Donald Trump, expressed solidarity with France and called the submarine’s decision “disappointing”.
“I have never had any illusion that we will never have problems with the new American president,” he told reporters.
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