Students paint a portrait of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Joe Biden in Mumbai, September 7, 2023, ahead of the upcoming G20 summit in New Delhi (AFP / INDRANIL MUKHERJEE)
Joe Biden begins a tour of Asia on Thursday that will take him to India to attend the G20 summit, which has been seen as particularly vulnerable by the absence of Chinese President Xi Jinping, and then to Vietnam.
The US president’s visit comes at a pivotal moment in the alliance game in the wake of the war in Ukraine and China’s growing influence to increasingly challenge US hegemony.
Mr. Biden left Andrews Air Force Base near Washington late Thursday and is scheduled to stop at the US base in Ramstein, Germany, before reaching New Delhi on Friday.
The trip aims to demonstrate America’s commitment to “advancing US priorities and working in support of developing countries”.
The US president clarified that he underwent a new Covid-19 test on Thursday, which turned out to be negative, just like the previous days. First lady Jill Biden came down with mild symptoms on Monday, raising fears that the 80-year-old president may be contaminated.
She also tested negative on Thursday, according to the first lady’s office.
– “Critical Moment” –
In New Delhi, in the absence of Chinese leaders Xi Jinping and Russian Vladimir Putin, the US president will take center stage at the G20 summit on Saturday and Sunday.
Last week, Joe Biden declared himself “disappointed” that President Xi, represented in New Delhi by Prime Minister Li Keqiang, was skipping the summit.
Joe Biden wants to use the summit, chaired by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to demonstrate that, despite divisions, it remains an important forum for global economic cooperation.
This is a way to send a message to Beijing and the emerging rival alliances, including the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa).
“We believe this will be a major event for global cooperation at a critical time,” Jake Sullivan, national security adviser on Air Force One, said Thursday.
The US president will discuss on Tuesday “continued joint efforts to tackle global problems” including climate change and “mitigating the economic and social consequences of Russia’s war in Ukraine”, which will affect poorer countries.
But he acknowledged Thursday that “there is still a way to go before the final report is made public or subject to an agreement between the leaders.”
Joe Biden will also appeal to strengthen the financial capacity of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
– Vietnamese partner –
His arrival in New Delhi on Friday included a bilateral meeting with the Indian prime minister, who was greeted with much fanfare at the White House in June.
As New Delhi seeks to establish a leading international role, the US is strengthening its ties with India to counter China.
Despite its differences over Russia — India did not abide by sanctions against Moscow after its invasion of Ukraine — or respect human rights.
“If the US starts emphasizing the issue of rights and democracy, it risks a very important relationship for the US to lose,” said Michael Kugelman, a South Asia expert at the Wilson Center in Washington.
Joe Biden is also scheduled to travel to Vietnam on Sunday to meet with the leader of the country’s ruling Communist Party, Nguyen Phu Trong, and other leaders, seeking to counter China’s influence in the region.
Relations between the United States and Vietnam have strengthened in recent years, including in the military and economic sectors, with the two countries largely reconciling despite the scars of war.
The US president’s visit is part of an all-out diplomatic offensive aimed at Asian countries, whether or not they are traditional US allies.
Joe Biden recently hosted the leaders of Japan and South Korea for an unprecedented summit.
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