President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the evacuation of American citizens
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

Biden tries to reassure allies and urges action on climate change, pandemic at U.N.

Biden seeks to reassure allies that the U.S. will not turn its back on global commitments in his first speech at the U.N.

President Biden will try to reassure allies that the United States will not turn its back on global commitments during his first speech at the United Nations on Tuesday as he pushes for more cooperation on combatting the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change.

His remarks come as he’s trying to strengthen alliances as a vanguard against China’s global ambitions, but also as missteps have weakened some of Washington’s key relationships. Biden has faced criticism over his administration’s chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan after two decades of war, and he upset France by pursuing a separate defense agreement with Australia and Britain.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the spats don’t mean that Biden isn’t committed to stronger ties after his predecessor, President Trump, spent four years frustrating U.S. allies with his “America first” approach to foreign policy.

“Reestablishing alliances doesn’t mean you won’t have disagreements,” she said Monday. “That is not the bar for having an alliance and an important partnership. That has never been, and it’s not currently.”

Psaki added that “the United States is not turning inward.”

The White House is trying to arrange a phone call between Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron after diplomatic ties devolved in recent days. Although France had planned to sell submarines to Australia as part of a massive defense contract, the arrangement fell apart after the U.S. and Britain cut their own deal to supply Australia with nuclear submarine technology, leaving the French out of the picture.

French officials reacted to the pact — known as AUKUS, an acronym of the three countries’ names — with fierce indignation, and recalled the country’s ambassador from Washington.

U.S. officials appear to be working to repair relations with Paris, and Psaki said Biden and Macron would talk about “reaffirming our commitment, the United States’ commitment, to our alliance, to our partnership, and to working together on a range of issues including security in the Indo-Pacific.”

Tensions between the U.S. and China in that region are causing concern around the globe. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the Associated Press that the U.S. and China must fix their “completely dysfunctional” relationship before the world is divided between two competing superpowers. He said problems like pandemics and climate change “cannot be solved without constructive relations within the international community and mainly among the superpowers.”

Psaki disagreed with that alarming assessment, saying “our relationship with China is one not of conflict but of competition.”

She added that Biden “will make absolutely clear that he is not looking to pursue a new cold war with any country in the world.”

Biden has other international engagements on his schedule this week. He’s participating Wednesday in a virtual COVID-19 conference, where he’ll push for bigger commitments to provide vaccines to poor countries.

While the U.S. is preparing to distribute booster shots so some eligible Americans can receive a third dose of vaccine, most people around the world have yet to get inoculated.

On Friday, Biden is hosting the first in-person summit of the Quad, another partnership focused on the Indo-Pacific. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison are scheduled to participate at the White House.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.