Biden ends G-7 summit with Ukraine’s help, optimism about China

Wrapping up a summit of the world’s wealthiest democracies here Sunday, President Biden had domestic issues on his mind — the U.S. debt negotiations — but also addressed the administration’s most pressing international concerns — Ukraine and China.

Biden announced another package of military aid to Ukraine, including $375 million in armor and artillery. And he predicted that US-China relations, which have been at their lowest points in decades, will soon improve.

The Group of 7 nations used their annual gathering to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine nearly 15 months ago, reaffirming their strong support for Kiev and asking China to be more constructive in ending the war and curbing its own aggressive actions toward Taiwan.

“Along with the entire G-7, we have Ukraine’s back and we’re not going anywhere,” Biden said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky gave a flustered speech at the summit on Sunday as part of a global campaign to call for more support for his beleaguered nation’s fight to oust Russian troops. Biden and Zelensky greeted each other with a hug.

Earlier Sunday, Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated his troops and mercenaries from the Wagner Group for capturing Bakhmut, the site of the longest and bloodiest battle of the war.

Zelensky initially seemed to lament the destruction of the small eastern town and the fall of the occupying forces, saying: “Happiness is now only in our hearts.”

Later, as his aides tried to back down from the comments, Zelensky clarified to reporters that the disputed city “is not occupied by the Russian Federation as of today.”

It was not possible to determine the full reality on the ground, but Russia is already some time ahead. Both sides suffered huge casualties in the battles.

“The people are a treasure,” Zelensky said. “I cannot share with you the technical details of what is happening with our fighters.”

Biden also said he would allow Ukrainian pilots to train with American-made F-16 fighter jets, equipment that the US government has yet to supply to the Ukrainians to avoid a further escalation of the war. Biden said he had received “firm assurances” that Ukraine would not use any US-made equipment, including F-16s, to attack Russian territory. Russian forces inside Ukraine, including presumably the Crimean peninsula, which Russia occupied in 2014, are fair game, Biden said.

Referring to China, Biden reiterated his intention to “make sure that Taiwan can defend itself” in the event of a unilateral attack by Beijing. But he also said he envisions improved relations between Washington and the government of President Xi Jinping.

“I think you’re going to see that start to thaw very soon,” Biden said at a news conference. He has again expressed support for the “One China” policy, a deliberately ambiguous relationship that formally recognizes mainland China while recognizing Taiwan as a self-governing island.

Biden’s remarks may have been aimed at softening the harsh language in a G-7 communique issued a day earlier that rebuked China and angered Xi’s government, which said democracies were interfering in China’s internal affairs.

During the three-day summit in the Japanese city, which was wiped out by a US atomic bomb during World War II that killed 140,000 people, Biden noted a growing diplomatic rapprochement between traditional rivals South Korea and Japan.

Enmity between the two continued due to Japanese colonialism and the treatment of Koreans during the war. But South Korean President Yun Suk-yeol and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida have taken steps toward reconciliation, and Biden has invited both to a rare trilateral meeting in Washington to decide. Both accepted, a senior administration official said.

After promising that the threat of a US default on his debt would not overshadow the summit, Biden returned to the topic on Sunday.

He said he believes he has the authority under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to unilaterally guarantee that debt payments are made, though he acknowledged there are likely legal challenges to such an effort.

While unable to predict what House Republicans will do, he said he would be on the phone with Speaker Kevin McCarthy late Sunday on Air Force One on his way home.

Later in Washington, McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) said on Capitol Hill that the two men had a “productive” call and would meet in person on Monday.

Subramanian reported from Hiroshima and Wilkinson from Washington.

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