American president Joe Biden promised an end to “relentless war” and the beginning of “relentless diplomacy” at a speech delivered to the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly.
In the speech, Biden described the withdrawal from Afghanistan in early September as a turning point in American international relations as America marks the “first time in 20 years the United States has not been at war.” The withdrawal from Afghanistan has been widely perceived by UN members as rushed and chaotic.
Fellow UN members have responded to the speech with a marked scepticism, overshadowed by the AKUS deal in which the US, UK, and Australia have negotiated the creation of a new nuclear-powered submarine fleet.
Despite not explicitly mentioning China, Biden indicated that attention and resources once dedicated to the conflicts in the Middle East would now be directed to the Pacific region. The “pivot to Asia” is seen as essential to compete with China’s growing influence by the White House, a rivalry Biden has not acknowledged directly. Biden commented: “We’ll stand up for our allies and our friends, and oppose attempts by stronger countries to dominate weaker ones through changes to territory by force, economic coercion … exploitation or disinformation.”
In a last-minute re-arrangement, China’s president Xi Jinping addressed the assembly only hours behind Biden. A deputy premier had been scheduled to represent China at the end of the week, Xi’s decision to speak personally, streamed from Beijing, would allow him to speak on the same day as the American president.
Xi told the assembly “the world is big enough to accommodate common development and progress of all countries” and “military intervention from the outside and so-called democratic transformation entail nothing but harm”.
Biden summarised the new American policy by stating that the US would continue to defend its allies and counter terrorism but would now use military force as a last resort.