Delivering his first address at the UN General Assembly (UNGA), U.S. President Joe Biden said America was not seeking a “new Cold War” in a reference to the tensions between the U.S. and China. Mr. Biden said America was closing a chapter on “relentless war”, after its exit from Afghanistan and that it was opening a chapter on diplomacy, development and renewing democracy.
“We are not seeking a new Cold War, or a world divided into rigid blocs,” Mr. Biden said. “The United States is ready to work with any nation that steps up and pursues peaceful resolution to shared challenges, even if we have intense disagreement in other areas...” he said. The President did not name China.
He said America would compete vigorously and will stand up for its allies and oppose attempts by stronger countries to dominate weaker ones via changes to territory by force, economic coercion, technological exploitation or using information. Over the weekend, speaking to the Associated Press, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres had asked the U.S. and China to mend their “completely dysfunctional” relationship.
“We need to avoid at all cost a Cold War that would be different from the past one, and probably more dangerous and more difficult to manage,” Mr. Guterres had said.
In his speech on Monday, Mr. Biden said the world stood at an inflection point and the future would depend on how it responded to a number of crises faced by humanity — COVID-19, climate change, the choice between “universal principles” and “the pursuit of naked political power”.
“The authoritarians of the world may seek to proclaim the end of the age of democracy, but they’re wrong,” Mr. Biden said. “The truth is, the democratic world is everywhere. It lives in the anti-corruption activist, the human rights defenders, the journalists, the peace protesters…”
Mr. Biden said the U.S., for its part, would, instead of fighting the wars of the past, focus on common challenges. He included trade, cyber issues, emerging technologies and the threat of terrorism on this list.
He said he was prioritising working with alliances and regional organisations, naming several, including NATO, the European Union, the Quad, the African Union and others as it focused on regions and issues of consequence. He cited the Indo-Pacific as an example of one of the most consequential regions in the world.
“We’ve ended 20 years of conflict in Afghanistan. And as we close this period of relentless war, we’re opening a new era of relentless diplomacy of using the power of our development aid to invest in new ways of lifting people up around the world; of renewing and defending democracy; of proving that no matter how challenging or how complex the problems you’re going to face, government by and for the people, is still the best way to deliver for all of our people,” Mr. Biden said. “U.S. military power must be our tool of last resort, not our first. It should not be used as an answer to every problem we see around the world,” he said. He dwelt on forms of U.S. engagement — such as vaccines, and funding to tackle the climate crisis.
The President said the U.S. was willing to return to full compliance with the Iran nuclear deal if Iran did the same. He also said he was seeking the “complete denuclearisation” of the Korean peninsula and that the U.S. believed in the two state solution, emphasising its support for Israel , which he characterised as “unequivocal”.
Mentioning the August terror attack at Kabul airport, Mr. Biden said the U.S. was adept at fighting terrorism without large-scale military deployments — such as by dismantling terror networks and financing.