President Joe Biden begins a week-long trip to Egypt and Asia on Thursday to address some of the United States’ most difficult foreign policy issues, boosted by Democrats’ better-than-expected performance in the midterm elections.
Biden will travel from an international climate summit in Egypt on Nov. 11 to an ASEAN meeting and the East Asia Summit in Cambodia on Nov. 12 and 13, followed by the annual G20 meeting in Indonesia on Nov. 14-16.
He’ll hold his first face-to-face meeting with Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping at the G20, where he hopes to explore Xi’s “red lines”, talk to allies about punishing Russia for its Ukraine invasion and discuss containing North Korea after a barrage of missile tests.
Here’s what’s on his agenda, according to senior administration officials:
Biden told reporters on Wednesday his goal is to get a deeper understanding of Xi’s priorities and concerns, in a meeting expected on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Bali, Indonesia. He will also discuss the disputed island of Taiwan with Xi.
Biden said he wants to lay out “what each of our red lines are,” understand what Xi believes to be in the national interest of China, discuss U.S. interests and “determine whether or not they conflict with one another.”
Beijing and Washington have been working on an in-person meeting between the two leaders since Biden took office in January 2021, U.S. officials have said previously, even as they have talked on the phone and met virtually. There’s still no public date or time for this meeting.
“The big question is… are the two leaders going to come in a sort of more conciliatory mode or sort of a more defiant one,” said Matthew Goodman, senior vice president for economics at the Center for Strategic & International Studies.
“They’ve both gotten through their political events of the year,” he said, referring to China’s Party Congress and the U.S. midterm elections, and could have more reason to try to find common ground than in the past.
Biden will also reaffirm America’s commitment to the Indo-Pacific region, a rules-based international order in the South China Sea, and discuss trade and China’s relationship with countries in the region.
Tensions have been high between the United States and China over Taiwan, particularly after U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the self-governing island earlier this year.
Biden, facing new challenges in U.S. efforts to squeeze Russia’s funding sources eight months into Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, plans to be “unapologetic” in his defense of Ukraine, and address the war’s impact on energy and food security at the G20 meeting, the officials said.
On Wednesday, Biden said U.S. aid for Ukraine will continue uninterrupted and any territorial compromise between the two countries is up to Ukraine. Biden also said he hoped Russian President Vladimir Putin will be willing to talk about a potential prisoner swap to secure the release of U.S. basketball star Brittney Griner.
Putin will not attend the G20 summit in person but is due join one of the meetings virtually, an Indonesian government official said.
Indonesia has also invited Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who has said he would not take part if Putin does and was expected to join virtually.
Biden will also meet Prime Minister Fumio Kishida of Japan and South Korean President Yoon Suk-Yeol during the ASEAN summit in Cambodia on Nov. 13 to discuss how to stem North Korea’s nuclear program, a White House official said.
They will address North Korea’s “unlawful weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs,” the official said.
In remarks on Nov. 11 at the COP27 summit in Egypt, Biden is expected to remind the 196 parties who signed on to the Paris Climate Agreement to keep their eyes on the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, senior administration officials said.
Biden is expected to discuss in a speech and bilateral meetings how Washington is partnering with developing countries to lower emissions by tapping into public and private partnerships, U.S. efforts to decarbonize sectors such as shipping and the pledge to lower methane emissions, the officials said.
During his visit to Egypt for COP27, Biden will have a bilateral meeting with Egyptian president Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and “human rights will feature prominently in those discussions,” administration officials said.
The U.S. has “raised repeated concerns” about jailed activist Alaa Abd El-Fattah, whose case has attracted global attention, with his health deteriorating during a 200-plus day hunger strike.
Biden will “continue to urge the Egyptian government to release political prisoners and undertake human rights related legal reforms,” said one of the officials.