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Biden addresses Afghanistan, N Korea, China, immigration and more in 1st press briefing

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
President Joe Biden speaks during a news conference in the East Room of the White House, Thursday, March 25, 2021, in Washington. (AP photo)

US President Joe Biden held his first formal press conference in the White House on Thursday, addressing a number of issues ranging from China’s trade practices to North Korea’s ballistic missile tests to withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan among other things.

On the US presence in Afghanistan, he said the American troops cannot be withdrawn from the war-torn country by May 1, the deadline set for the pullout, however, added he did not think there would be any more US forces there next year.

“I can’t picture, that being the case,” he told reporters when asked whether it was possible there would be troops in Afghanistan next year.

Under an agreement reached between the Taliban and the administration of former president Donald Trump, Washington promised to withdraw troops by May in exchange for the Taliban to halt attacks on US-led foreign forces.

On Wednesday, House of Representatives Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith said, “We’ve got ... closer to 3,500 troops in Afghanistan. Our (NATO) allies have around 7,000,” adding, and that “you cannot pull out 10,000-plus troops in any sort of way in six weeks.”

The Taliban have already threatened that the US failure to depart by the agreed-upon date would be regarded as breach of the deal and would draw a “reaction” from the militant group.

Biden warns N Korea of consequences following its ballistic missile tests

The US president warned North Korea of consequences after Pyongyang launched two ballistic missiles on Thursday, but noted he was open to diplomacy with the Asian country.

He went on to say that Washington is consulting with its allies on the way forward.

“We are consulting with our allies and partners, and there will be responses if they choose to escalate. We will respond accordingly,” he said.

“I’m also prepared for some form of diplomacy, but it has to be conditioned upon the end result of denuclearization,” he added.

The latest launches are seen as a new challenge to his administration's efforts to engage with the North. However, Pyongyang has rebuffed any attempt by Washington to establish contact as long as it pursues a "hostile policy."

North Korea has long been under harsh United Nations sanctions over its nuclear and missile programs. The US has spearheaded those sanctions and has imposed several rounds of its own.

Biden says Chinese president has no ‘democratic’ bone

Biden attacked his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, claiming he does not have a “democratic bone in his body.”

He also urged China to play by international rules for what he called fair competition and trade, noting, though, Washington was not looking for confrontation with Beijing.

“He’s one of the guys, like (Russian President Vladimir) Putin, who thinks that autocracy is the wave of the future, (and) democracy can’t function in an ever-complex world,” Biden said.

“He doesn’t have a democratic - with a small ‘d’ - bone in his body, but he’s a smart, smart guy,” he said.

“We’re not looking for confrontation, although we know there will be steep, steep competition,” Biden said. “We’ll insist that China play by the international rules - fair competition, fair practices, fair trade.”

Ties between Washington and Beijing particularly soured under Trump, who clashed with China on trade, technology, and regional security, among other things.

Biden, who also backed Trump’s tough approach towards China, said Thursday the US would work with allies to hold China accountable for its actions on Taiwan, Hong Kong and the South China Sea.

Biden said in his talk with Xi after taking office, he told the Chinese president, “And as long as you and your country continue to so blatantly violate human rights, we are going to continue in an unrelenting way to call it to the attention of the world, and make it clear, make it clear, what’s happening. And he understood that.”

Beijing has rejected those charges, asserting that the US must stop interfering in its internal affairs.

Biden defends handling of rise in migrants

Biden defended his handling of an increase in migrants arriving at the country’s border with Mexico, saying an overwhelming majority of them are turned back.

Nevertheless, he said some families had been allowed to enter the country since Mexico would not accept them.

The president also said the rise in arrivals was part of a seasonal trend which took place under Trump.

After taking office in Jan., Biden has ordered the reunification of migrant children with their families, halted construction of the border wall and called for reviews of legal immigration programs terminated by Trump.

Republicans, however, have accused the president of ignoring the deteriorating crisis at the southern border caused by influx of migrants, mostly escaping violence in Central and Southern America.

Nearly 100,000 migrants were apprehended at the border in February, the highest monthly level since a surge in mid-2019.

Biden raps 'gigantic' abuse of Senate filibuster

Biden said he believed the US Senate should make it harder to use the filibuster, saying it was being "abused in a gigantic way."

The parliamentary maneuver requires 60 votes to advance most legislation in the 100-seat chamber.

When pressed why then not to abolish it, Biden said, "Successful electoral politics is the art of the possible. Let's figure out how we can get this done and move in the direction of significantly changing the abuse of even the filibuster rule first.”

“It's been abused from the time it came into being, by an extreme way in the last 20 years. Let's deal with the abuse first."

The filibuster custom, which is known as tactic used to "talk a bill to death", is meant to protect the interests of the minority; however, it has increasingly led to deadlock and turned the Senate into a legislative graveyard for bills passed by the House.


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