Biden First Press Conference: Foreign policy and Immigration
Biden First Press Conference: Foreign policy and Immigration

President Joe Biden made news on several issues, including insights into his legislative priorities, foreign policy and the administration’s handling of unaccompanied migrant children at the border. Biden spoke for a little over an hour and fielded a range of issues.

Thirty reporters attended the news conference, a smaller number than normal due to distancing measures in place for the coronavirus pandemic

Biden Foreign policy

In first press conference, Biden provided some new insights into how he views his role on the global stage.

China

On competition with China, Biden emphasized that the current relationship was emblematic of a larger competition between democracy and autocracy, a dynamic Biden cautioned would define the 21st century. The president also said he will soon “invite an alliance of democracies” to a summit to “discuss the future.”

During the press conference, which lasted a little over an hour, Biden declined to answer specific questions about Trump-era tariffs on China, saying they "only touch a smidgen of what the relationship with China really is about," his administration has left them in place for now, believing they provide leverage for future negotiations.

According to USA Today, President Joe Biden said China President Xi Jinping “doesn’t have a democratic bone in his body” as he talked about “holding China accountable to follow the rules.”

“He’s one of the people, like Putin, who thinks autocracy is the wave of the future,” Biden said.

Biden recounted having a two-hour phone conversation with Xi when the Chinese leader called him after he won the election over Donald Trump. Biden said he made clear to Xi that he foresees “stiff competition with China” but insisted they play by international rules.

He also warned Xi about the repercussion of committing human rights violations, telling him, “As long as you violate human rights, we’re going to call it to the attention to the world.”

Biden affirmed that the U.S. will remain the world’s economic leader despite the efforts of the Chinese to replace it.

Transcript of Biden First Press Conference March 25 Transcript of Biden First Press Conference March 25

Read Full Transcript of President Joe Biden's First Press Conference on Thursday (March 25). He talks about immigration, filibuster, China, vaccination goal and More.

Afghanistan: 'Difficult' to meet May 1 troop withdrawal deadline

The president was also pressed about the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan by May, something Biden said would be “difficult.” May 1 deadline - the date named in an agreement the Trump administration reached with the Taliban last year.

Biden said he and his aides have been meeting with allies about ways to make the previously negotiated contract feasible, but “could not see” troops still being in the country by 2022.

Biden also said the deal brokered by the Trump administration that mandated the May 1 troop withdrawal was “poorly designed.” Former President Donald Trump negotiated a deal between the Taliban and Afghani civilian government in 2019.

Peace talks between the Afghani government and the Taliban have deteriorated over the past year, with Taliban forces regaining control of some segments of the country.

American allies

He suggested a renewed focus on improving relationships with American allies after a tumultuous four years under Trump.

But he also acknowledged certain areas where he finds himself confronting the very same issues as his predecessor without a new approach.

North Korea: Respond if North Korea escalates actions

He said Wednesday's ballistic missile tests from North Korea violated UN Security Council resolutions, and vowed a response if the situation escalates, but said -- like Trump -- he was willing to give diplomacy a chance if conditioned "on the end result of denuclearization."

Asked if North Korea was still the top foreign policy issue he was currently facing -- something Obama warned Trump would be the case when he entered office in 2016 -- Biden said it was.

"Yes," he said, without elaborating.

He said he would pursue addressing the situation through “some form of diplomacy,” rather than just a military reaction. But that would be conditioned on North Korea being willing to give up their nuclear weapons, Biden added.

Immigration

The most sustained line of questioning at Thursday's news conference was around the issue of immigration at the southern border, which Biden administration has refused to define as a "crisis."

President Joe Biden defended his immigration policy in response to a question about whether he may be sending a message to immigrants that they can cross the border.

Biden said he would never tell an unaccompanied child who ends up at the border that “we’re just gonna let him starve to death and stand on the other side.”

“No previous administrations did that either, except Trump,” he said. “I'm not going to do it.”

Biden said that is why he has asked Vice President Kamala Harris to lead White House efforts to stem migration at the border.

At its heart, Biden's argument is that the current immigration situation was aggravated by policies enacted under his predecessor, which he said made it harder to house and process migrant children.

And he claimed he'd directed top officials to speed up the pace at which relatives of migrant children are contacted to move them from government shelters.

"It's going to get a whole hell of a lot better real quick or we're going to hear some people leaving," he said. "We can get this done. We're going to get it done."

Biden said his policies were not the cause of an increase in children arriving at the border as Republicans have claimed, instead blaming former President Donald Trump for neglecting Central America while in office and for implementing policies that led to overcrowding in facilities at the border. Biden said that the seasonal uptick in migration that occurs each spring before the deadly summer heat was also reason for the increase in migrant children arriving right now.

Biden says he will run for reelection in 2024

President Joe Biden has been in office just a little over two months, but he said he’s already planning to run for a second term in 2024.

“Yes, my plan is to run for reelection,” he said. “That's my expectation.”

Biden said he also “would fully expect” that Vice President Kamala Harris would remain on the ticket as his running mate for a second term.

“She’s a great partner,” he said.

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