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US President Joe Biden addresses the UN General Assembly via live stream in New York, the US, September 21 2021. Picture: MICHAEL NAGEL/BLOOMBERG
US President Joe Biden addresses the UN General Assembly via live stream in New York, the US, September 21 2021. Picture: MICHAEL NAGEL/BLOOMBERG

New York  — US President Joe Biden mapped out a new era of vigorous competition without a new Cold War in his first UN address on Tuesday, promising restraint from the US military and new commitments to cope with climate change.

The US would help resolve crises from Iran to the Korean Peninsula to Ethiopia, Biden told the annual UN General Assembly gathering.

The world faces a “decisive decade”, he said, and leaders need to work together to fight a raging coronavirus pandemic, a warming planet and cyber threats. He said the US would double its financial commitment on climate aid and spend $10bn to fight hunger.

Biden did not address America’s rising authoritarian competitor, China, directly but sprinkled implicit references to Beijing throughout his speech, as the US butts heads with China in the Indo-Pacific and on trade and human rights issues.

He said the US will compete vigorously, economically and to push democratic systems and rule of law.

“We'll stand up for our allies and our friends and oppose attempts by stronger countries to dominate weaker ones, whether through changes to territory by force, economic coercion, technical exploitation or disinformation, but we're not seeking — I'll say it again, we are not seeking a new Cold War or a world divided into rigid blocs,” he said.

Biden came to the UN facing criticism at home and abroad for a hasty US withdrawal from Afghanistan that left some Americans and Afghan allies still in that country and struggling to get out.

His vow for allied unity is being tested by a three-way agreement between the US, Australia and Britain that undermined a French submarine deal and left France feeling stabbed in the back.

“We’ve ended 20 years of conflict in Afghanistan and as we close this era of relentless war, we’re opening a new era of relentless diplomacy,” Biden said.

Biden vowed to defend vital US national interests, but said “the mission must be clear and achievable”, and the American military “must not be used as the answer to every problem we see around the world”.

Biden, a Democrat, hoped to present a compelling case that the US remains a reliable ally to its partners around the world after years of “America First” policies pursued by his Republican predecessor Donald Trump.

Overcoming global challenges “will hinge on our ability to recognise our common humanity”, he said.

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Biden added that he remained committed to peacefully resolving a dispute with Iran over its nuclear programme. He vowed to defend US ally Israel but said a two-state solution with the Palestinians is still needed but a distant goal.

UN secretary-general António Guterres, who begins a second five-year term at the helm of the world body on January 1, warned earlier of the dangers of the growing gap between China and the US, the world’s largest economies.

“I fear our world is creeping towards two different sets of economic, trade, financial and technology rules, two divergent approaches in the development of artificial intelligence — and ultimately two different military and geopolitical strategies,” Guterres said.

“This is a recipe for trouble. It would be far less predictable than the Cold War,” Guterres said.

Reuters 

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