President Joe Biden embarked on a journey to India and Vietnam, a significant trip aimed at strengthening U.S. influence in Asia and addressing the global ascent of China. This excursion holds additional weight as Biden’s re-election campaign gains momentum, positioning him as a robust global leader compared to his predecessor, Donald Trump, who is currently leading the GOP presidential nomination race. An advertisement released by Biden’s campaign emphasized his recent visit to war-torn Ukraine, showcasing his unwavering stance against Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom he referred to as a dictator.
Here are five key aspects to monitor during Biden’s journey to New Delhi, India, and Hanoi, Vietnam:
- Countering China with Economic Initiatives: Biden’s first destination is New Delhi, where he will engage in discussions with leaders of the Group of 20 (G20) nations, which represent the world’s largest economies. The U.S. aims to rally support for reforming the World Bank and other international development banks, making them more capable of funding projects in lower- and middle-income countries. This initiative aims to provide an alternative to these nations, reducing their reliance on China’s “Belt and Road” infrastructure projects, which have been criticized for their coercive lending practices.
- Xi Jinping’s Absence: Notably, Chinese President Xi Jinping has opted out of the G20 summit, which is the first time in a decade. The reasons behind this decision remain undisclosed, potentially influenced by China’s strained relations with India, domestic political factors, or other undisclosed circumstances. Biden expressed disappointment at Xi’s absence but expressed hope for a meeting later in the year at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders’ summit.
- Support for Ukraine: During his visit to New Delhi, Biden will seek continued international support for Ukraine in its ongoing conflict with Russia. This effort is particularly significant given the growing reluctance among Republicans in Congress to approve the requested $24 billion in additional funding for Kyiv.
- Kim Jong Un’s Potential Russia Visit: There are reports suggesting that North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, might meet with Russian President Putin in Russia soon. The White House has raised concerns about Moscow potentially purchasing arms from North Korea for the Ukrainian conflict. Such developments could have ramifications for the geopolitical landscape.
- Vietnam-U.S. Relations: Biden will proceed to Hanoi, Vietnam, where he is expected to announce a significant enhancement in U.S.-Vietnamese relations. Despite a history marred by conflict, the two nations established diplomatic ties in 1995. This visit is anticipated to include economic and technological cooperation. Vietnam’s elevation of the United States to a status previously granted to only four other nations, including China, signifies the evolving partnership in the Indo-Pacific region.
In the background, concerns persist regarding the possibility of President Biden testing positive for COVID-19 during his trip. While precautions, such as wearing a face mask indoors, have been outlined, the White House has refrained from discussing contingency plans for such a scenario.
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This diplomatic endeavor underscores the United States’ commitment to strengthening its presence in the Indo-Pacific region and countering China’s assertiveness, marking a pivotal moment in U.S. foreign policy.