Biden, Scholz hold White House talks on Ukraine, China concerns

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters the meeting was a chance for the two leaders to discuss coordination on Ukraine

March 04, 2023 01:15 am | Updated 01:15 am IST - WASHINGTON

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and U.S. President Joe Biden | File photo

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and U.S. President Joe Biden | File photo | Photo Credit: AP

U.S. President Joe Biden and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz held talks on Friday focused largely on the war in Ukraine, China and other matters, amid signs of strains between the transatlantic partners.

Sitting next to Mr. Scholz in the Oval Office, Mr. Biden thanked the German leader for “profound” support on Ukraine and Mr. Scholz said it was important to send the message that the support will continue “as long as it takes and as long as is necessary.”

Mr. Biden hailed Mr. Scholz’s decision to increase military spending and had worked in lockstep with the United States and other allies to support Ukraine.

“As NATO allies, we’re making the alliance stronger,” he said.

The two leaders were expected to meet for an hour, including a one-on-one conversation in the Oval Office. The United States announced a new package of military assistance for Ukraine totaling $400 million as Mr. Biden and Mr. Scholz met.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters the meeting was a chance for the two leaders to discuss coordination on Ukraine.

The visit by Mr. Scholz came days after Mr. Biden’s security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said that Mr. Biden only sent Abrams tanks to Ukraine because Mr. Scholz made it a pre-condition for sending German Leopards.

Mr. Biden’s decision came against his military’s advice, Mr. Sullivan told ABC News. Berlin has insisted that Mr. Biden came to see it was necessary and so the decision was consensual.

Mr. Scholz’s visit comes as the United States sounds out close allies about the possibility of imposing sanctions on China if Beijing provides military support to Russia for its war in Ukraine, according to four U.S. officials and other sources.

Neither Washington nor Berlin say they have seen evidence of Beijing’s providing weapons to Moscow, but U.S. officials say they are monitoring the situation closely.

“We haven’t yet seen China do anything yet, as it relates to lethal weapons,” Ms. Jean-Pierre said. “Every step China takes towards Russia, makes it harder for China with Europe and other countries around the world.”

Germany, which has typically taken a much less hawkish stance on China, its top trading partner, than the United States, has suggested China could play a role in bringing about peace — a prospect many China observers view with skepticism.

A senior administration official underscored close coordination between Berlin and Washington, and welcomed Mr. Scholz’s speech to parliament on Thursday, in which he urged China not to provide weapons to Moscow and asked Beijing to exert pressure on Russia to pull back its forces.

Last month, a delegation of U.S. officials including Vice President Kamala Harris and Secretary of State Antony Blinken attended an annual security gathering in Munich, with many praising Germany for its support of Ukraine, which required an overhaul of its approach to defence and foreign policy.

U.S. officials say Mr. Scholz could well raise concerns about U.S. subsidies for climate-friendly technologies under the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which Germany argues could put its companies at a disadvantage and contribute to luring firms away.

Critics say the IRA was a slap in the face to Europe from its biggest ally at a time when Europe was already struggling with sharply higher energy prices due to the Ukraine war.

A U.S.-EU task force is continuing to meet on the issue, but Washington insists the tax credits will drive down costs for clean energy globally. 

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