UNITED NATIONS (PA) – President Joe Biden delivers his first address to the United Nations General Assembly Tuesday to call on allies to act faster to address the lingering problems of the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and human rights abuses, while insisting that the United States is not researching ” a new cold war ”with China.
The president said the halt to US military operations in Afghanistan last month, ending America’s longest war, set the stage for his administration to focus US attention on intensive diplomacy. at a time when global crises abound.
“To be of service to our own people, we must also engage deeply with the rest of the world,” he said.
He added, “We are ushering in a new era of relentless diplomacy, of using the power of our development assistance to invest in new ways of uplifting people around the world.
Biden offered strong endorsement of the relevance of the UN an th ambition at a difficult time in history, and sought to reassure allies wary of US cooperation after disagreements in recent months.
He also pledged to double US financial aid to the poorest countries to help them switch to cleaner energy and cope with the “ruthless” effects of climate change. This would mean an increase in aid to about $ 11.4 billion per year. This after having doubled five months ago the amount to 5.7 billion dollars per year.
As part of the fight against climate change, rich countries have pledged for many years to spend $ 100 billion a year on climate assistance, but new study shows they are missing $ 20 billion a year . Biden said his new pledge will help rich countries reach their goal.
The goal of $ 100 billion is essential because in climate negotiations there is a dramatic gap between rich and poor nations. Developing countries and others are reluctant to further reduce emissions of heat-trapping gases without the help of developed countries, who, in the words of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, are “the guys who created the problem.”
Biden faces a healthy measure of skepticism from his allies during his week of high-level diplomacy. The first months of his presidency included a series of difficult times with friendly nations awaiting greater cooperation from Biden after four years of Donald 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 feud with France, America’s oldest ally, after announcing its 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 there was a “crisis of confidence” with the United States following the episode.
Biden wasn’t that worried. Asked by a reporter as he arrived at the UN on Tuesday how he planned to restore relations with the French, Biden replied in two words: “They are great. “
Ahead of Biden’s arrival in New York, EU Council President Charles Michel on Monday sharply criticized the Biden administration for leaving Europe “off the hook in the Indo-Pacific” and ignoring the elements. underlying elements of the transatlantic alliance – transparency and loyalty – 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 the “completely dysfunctional” relationship between the United States and China and the possibility that it could lead to a new cold war.
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 the dramatic economic and development challenges when the world’s two largest economies are at odds,” he said.
Biden sought to downplay concerns about escalating tensions in China to something more, saying, “We are not looking for a new Cold War or a world divided into rigid blocs.”
More generally, he strongly insisted on the need for world leaders to work together on the COVID-19 pandemic, to meet past obligations to fight climate change, to deal with emerging technological problems and to strengthen trade rules.
“We will choose to build a better future. We, you and I have the will and the capacity to improve it. Ladies and gentlemen, we cannot afford to waste any more time, ”he said. ” We can do it. “
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 later Tuesday while 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 down for 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 frustrated some allies and damaged his reputation at home. He called on the world to make the use of force “our tool of last resort, not our first” in the future.
“Today, many of our greatest concerns cannot be resolved or even addressed by force of arms,” he said. “Bombs and bullets cannot defend against Covid-19 or its future variants. “
Madhani reported from Washington. Associated Press editors Seth Borenstein and Darlene Superville in Washington, Jonathan Lemire in New York, and Edith Lederer at the United Nations contributed to this report.