Mon, 01 Mar 2021

World Leaders Congratulate Biden, Praise Shared Policy Agenda

Voice of America
22 Jan 2021, 08:05 GMT+10

LONDON - World leaders have congratulated Joe Biden following his inauguration Wednesday as the 46th U.S. president. Many allies also offered warm words for Kamala Harris as she became the first woman to serve as vice president.

After four years of turbulent transatlantic relations, European Union Commission President Ursula von der Leyen offered a warm welcome to Biden.

"Once again after four long years, Europe has a friend in the White House," von der Leyen told lawmakers Thursday at the EU Parliament in Brussels. "This new dawn in America is the moment we've been waiting for so long. Europe is ready for a new start with our oldest and most trusted partner."

"From climate change to health, from digitalization to democracy, these are global challenges that need renewed and global cooperation, and the European Union and the United States must lead from the front and bring an alliance of like-minded powers with us," von der Leyen said.

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel echoed those sentiments.

"There is simply far more scope for political agreement with President Biden. That is clear just looking at the executive orders he signed yesterday. We will once again work together in the WHO [World Health Organization], on the Paris climate accord. And on issues of migration, we will likely have a more similar view," Merkel said at a news conference Thursday.

"At the same time, we are fully aware that with the inauguration of a new American president, we can't expect full political agreement on everything. ... Joe Biden represents the interests of the United States of America. I represent Germany's interests," Merkel said.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had a warmer relationship with Donald Trump than many other European leaders did. But Johnson said Wednesday that he and Biden had much in common.

"When you look at the issues that unite me and Joe Biden, the U.K. and the United States right now, there's a fantastically joint common agenda," Johnson said. "I really congratulate Joe and Kamala Harris on their achievement on their inauguration today. It's a fantastic thing for America. It's a step forward for the country. It's been through a bumpy period."

NATO's Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said, "Today is the start of a new chapter for the transatlantic alliance. ... I look forward to working closely with President Biden and welcoming him to the NATO summit in Brussels later this year. Our focus will be NATO2030, the initiative to make our strong alliance even stronger and fit for the future."

Restore relationships

The first task for Biden will be to rekindle old alliances, said security analyst Julie Norman of University College London.

"He's just going to face a challenge of just resetting U.S. relations on the global scene. That means restoring a lot of relationships with allies, re-engaging with multilateral bodies and international institutions," Norman told VOA.

There were big celebrations on Inauguration Day in Kosovo, where a street bears the name of Biden's late son Beau, who worked in the country with the U.S. Department of Justice following the 1999 Kosovo War.

FILE - Then U.S. Vice President Joe Biden joined by his family members walk along the national road named after his late son Joseph R. 'Beau' Biden III, in the village of Sojevo, Kosovo, Aug. 17, 2016. FILE - Then-U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and his family members walk along the national road named after his late son, Joseph R. "Beau" Biden III, in the village of Sojevo, Kosovo, Aug. 17, 2016.

Mayor Lutfi Haziri of the Kosovan town of Gjilan said people there remember the president's son as "a volunteer in uniform in liberating Kosovo and a volunteer in building up rule of law institutions in the Republic of Kosovo."

"He has been closely linked to our fight to be free and equal, of course with the influence of his family," Haziri said.

Allies in the Asia-Pacific region welcomed the new U.S. administration. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison made special mention of Kamala Harris.

"That is an historic moment, and one that I think, as a father of daughters, you can only celebrate. And I wish her all the best in her very important duties," Morrison said. He added that Australia and the United States have much to work on together, "whether it is on climate, on energy, on international security and importantly, regional security here in the Indo-Pacific."

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga echoed his Australian counterpart at a news conference Thursday.

"I hope to closely cooperate with the new president to achieve a free and open Indo-Pacific region," he told reporters.

Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga speaks during a press conference at the prime minister's official residence in Tokyo, Jan. 13, 2021. FILE - Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga speaks during a press conference at the prime minister's official residence in Tokyo, Jan. 13, 2021.

That is a clear reference to the perceived threat from China in the Indo-Pacific region.

US-China relations

Beijing on Thursday called for a reset in relations with Washington.

"We hope that the new U.S. government will view China and our relations in an objective and rational manner, proceed from the well-being of the two peoples, work with China in the same direction to uphold the spirit of non-conflict and non-confrontation, mutual respect, and win-win cooperation. We hope it will focus on cooperation, manage disputes and strive to bring China-U.S. relations back to the track of healthy and stable development," Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Hua Chunying said Thursday.

China sanctioned former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and dozens of other Trump administration officials Wednesday in response to Pompeo's labeling of Beijing's treatment of Uighur Muslims as genocide. The Trump administration also sanctioned several Chinese officials over Beijing's military activities in the South China Sea.

This August 18, 2020, image courtesy of Planet Labs, Inc., reportedly show a Chinese submarine (C, bottom) entering an underground base on Hainan Island on the South China Sea. The satellite image appears to show a Type 093 nuclear-powered attack submarine entering a tunnel on Yulin Naval Base. FILE - This August 18, 2020, image courtesy of Planet Labs Inc. reportedly shows a Chinese submarine (center, bottom) entering an underground base on Hainan Island on the South China Sea.

A spokesperson for Biden's National Security Council said China's decision to announce the sanctions on the day of Biden's inauguration was "unproductive and cynical" and "an attempt to play to partisan divides."

When questioned Tuesday at his confirmation hearing by the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Secretary of State-designate Antony Blinken, who is likely to take over from Pompeo, agreed with his predecessor that China was carrying out genocide against the Uighur population.

China is at the top of Biden's foreign policy challenges, analyst Norman said.

"The incoming administration will also maintain a pretty tough China stance. It's actually an area where I think we'll have some bipartisan agreement on that approach. But again, one that is more engaged with allies in doing that," she said.

Iran, Russia

Iranian leader Hassan Rouhani said this week the "ball was in Biden's court" over the future of the 2015 nuclear deal, which the U.S. president has said he wants to rejoin if Tehran meets its commitments under the agreement to limit nuclear enrichment.

Trump abandoned the deal in 2018. Iran has since increased its uranium enrichment to 20% and is installing new centrifuges, breaching the deal.

Russia's ambassador to the U.S. said Biden's inauguration was a "new chapter" in relations with Washington. The Biden administration has demanded the release of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who was arrested and jailed on his return to Moscow Sunday after receiving medical treatment in Germany. Navalny survived a poisoning attempt last year and was flown to Berlin for treatment.

There was no official response from Russian President Vladimir Putin about Biden's inauguration.

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