‘Diplomacy is back’: Joe Biden unveils foreign policy priorities

Washington: The United States will reinvigorate its alliances and again become a global leader on climate change action and promoting democracy, US President Joe Biden has declared in his first foreign policy speech since his inauguration.

Biden’s speech at the State Department on Friday (AEDT) contained several major policy announcements including the end of American support for Saudi Arabia’s military operations in Yemen and a massive increase in the US refugee intake.

The US will also freeze a withdrawal of troops from Germany that had been announced by the Trump administration.

US President Joe Biden said that diplomacy was again at the centre of US foreign policy. Credit:AP

“America cannot afford to be absent any longer on the world stage,” Biden said, contrasting his approach to the more isolationist stance of predecessor Donald Trump.

“Diplomacy is back. It’s the centre of our foreign policy.”

The new President said he had spoken to the leaders of many of America’s closest allies – including Australia – to begin “re-forming the habits of cooperation and rebuilding the muscles of democratic alliances that have atrophied from four years of neglect and abuse”.

Diplomacy is back: US President Joe Biden speaks at the State Department.Credit:AP

“America’s alliances are among our greatest assets, and leading with diplomacy means standing shoulder to shoulder with our allies and key partners once more,” Biden said.

“But leading with diplomacy must also mean engaging our adversaries and our competitors diplomatically where it is in our interest and advances the security of the American people.”

Biden called for Kremlin critic and prominent Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny, who has been sentenced to three years in jail, to be immediately released without condition.

Joe Biden called for Russian Alexei Navalny to be released. Credit:AP

“I made it clear to President [Vladimir] Putin, in a manner very different from my predecessor, that the days of the United States rolling over in the face of Russia’s aggressive actions – interfering in our elections, cyber attacks, poisoning its citizens – are over,” Biden said.

He also called on the military regime in Myanmar to relinquish power after launching a coup this week.

“There can be no doubt: in a democracy, force should never seek to overrule the will of the people or attempt to erase the outcome of a credible election,” he said.

Biden said his administration would confront China over trade abuse, attacks on human rights and intellectual property theft while working with Beijing when in America’s interests.

If intellectual trade and property rules are fair, Biden said “there’s no country on earth – not China or anyone else – that can match us”.

On climate change, he said the US would be asking global leaders to “up the ante” on the emissions reduction targets.

“America must lead in the face of this existential threat,” he said.

Biden said he wanted to increase America’s annual refugee cap – which fell to around 15,000 under Trump – to 125,000 to reflect the global need.

“It’s going to take time to rebuild what has been so badly damaged,” he said, referring to the US refugee intake.

Biden promised during the election campaign to end US support for the war in Yemen, which is widely viewed as a humanitarian disaster.

Biden also said that his administration would put LGBTQ rights at the centre of its foreign policy, including by advocating for the decriminalisation of homosexuality in countries where it is illegal.

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