UN secretary-general urges US and China to repair relationship

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UN secretary-general urges US and China to repair relationship

President Biden is entering the United Nations General Assembly on Monday carrying the baggage of multiple recent foreign policy disasters — including the botched troop withdrawal from Afghanistan and a weapons deal blunder that has seen France withdraw its ambassador from the US — as he is set to meet with the UN secretary-general to kick off the summit.

Ahead of the Monday meeting, UN chief Antonio Guterres told the Associated Press that his focus is on the US and China repairing their relationship, and is eager to discuss avoiding a “cold war” with China.

Guterres told the wire service that the US-China relationship is “essential to address the problems of vaccination, the problems of climate change and many other global challenges that cannot be solved without constructive relations within the international community and mainly among the superpowers.” 

“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,” he said, adding that the current relationship between the two powers is one of “confrontation.” 

Guterres pointed to the recent nuclear submarine deal signed by the US, United Kingdom and Australia, saying it has only further added to the “dysfunctional relationship” between the US and China. 

Last week, the Biden administration announced a deal to sell nuclear submarines to Australia as part of a strategic Indo-Pacific alliance with Britain and Australia, scuttling a 2016 contract with France to build 12 conventional diesel-electric submarines.

Joe Biden and Xi Jinping.
China has expressed frustration over the AUKUS nuclear submarine agreement that the Biden administration announced.
Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

France immediately voiced its frustration, calling the deal a “stab in the back,” before canceling a gala in Washington, DC, and recalling all its ambassadors from the US and Australia. 

Biden is expected to talk with French President Emmanuel Macron in the coming days to discuss the disagreement. 

China was also angered by the AUKUS nuclear submarine agreement, saying it  “seriously damages regional peace and stability, intensifies the arms race, and undermines the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.”

“China will pay close attention to the development of the AUKUS deal,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said. “Relevant countries should abandon their Cold War and zero-sum game mentality; otherwise, they will lift a rock that drops on their own feet.”

Biden’s meeting with Guterres comes three weeks after the US completed a chaotic troop withdrawal from Afghanistan and initial evacuation efforts of Americans and Afghan allies from the country. 

The Taliban quickly took full control of the government and bested the US’s most conservative estimates of when they could regain power.

The Biden administration has faced bipartisan backlash for its handling of the troop withdrawal, which saw the deaths of 13 US service members and nearly 200 Afghans in an ISIS-K suicide bombing outside the Kabul airport. 

All US troops have been recalled from the war-torn nation, but roughly 100 Americans who wish to leave are thought to still be in the country. The administration has repeatedly used vague language when discussing those left, and has not provided an exact number. 

Last week, Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke before Congress for the first time since the withdrawal as top officials try to figure out what went wrong. 

While the Afghanistan crisis and diplomatic frustration with France are likely to be looming over Biden’s address to the General Assembly on Tuesday, the president is expected to pitch for stronger global partnership, particularly in battling the coronavirus pandemic.

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