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Trump and Biden: a contrasting approach to foreign relations

Trump and Biden: a contrasting approach to foreign relations
Copyright AP Photo
Copyright AP Photo
By Nial O'Reilly
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The differences in approach to foreign relations between President Trump and his democratic rival Joe Biden are arguably as pronounced as any two candidates from their parties have ever been. They have contrasting views on Russia, North Korea, China and the European Union amongst others.


"America First": from day one, Donald Trump vowed to take a tougher line with the US' adversaries.

This was a stance reflected in a series of caustic Tweets about North Korea's leader.

But in a move that stunned much of the world and its media, the bellicose rhetoric soon gave way to an historic rapprochement: over the course of his presidency, Trump has met Kim Jong-Un three times.

This is an accelerated diplomatic drive that Joe Biden would be unlikely to continue.

At the first of their meetings, in Singapore in June 2018, Trump sounded a very optimistic note:

"I think our whole relationship with North Korea and the Korean peninsula is going to be a very much different situation than it has in the past. We both want to do something. We both are going to do something and we have developed a very special bond."

However, their meetings delivered more in the way of warm words like these than in terms of North Korean nuclear disarmament.

In contrast under Trump, US relations with China have hit their lowest point in decades, primarily amid a trade dispute.

But Trump's blaming of China for America's coronavirus woes heightened tensions and trade talks are now frozen. Biden says he would continue to pressure Beijing, but through a multilateral approach, involving US allies.

A 2017 Trump tweet in defence of good relations with Russia

It's perhaps over Russia that Biden and Trump differ most strongly. Trump has seemed reluctant to criticise President Putin at times, even when US intelligence concluded the Kremlin had interfered in the 2016 election.

Biden has claimed he would take a much firmer line with Moscow; in his first televised presidential debate with Trump, he said the President had been far too soft:

"The fact is that I have gone head to head with Putin and made it clear to him we're not going to take any of his stuff.

"He (Trump) is Putin's puppy."

But Biden appears unlikely to reverse one of the signature foreign policy developments of the Trump presidency: the transfer of Washington's Israel embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

He would, however, seek to reset America's ties with its allies, many of whom have been heavily criticised by Trump.

Ultimately however, foreign relations have rarely been a priority for the average US voter, even more so now with an unprecedented health and economic crisis at home.

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