Biden meets royals and new UK leader at worrisome moment for US-UK relationship

LONDON — Here on Sunday, President Biden visited Westminster Hall to view the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II, his first official condolence during a brief visit to Britain for the funeral of Britain’s longest-reigning monarch .

Standing in front of the coffin, Biden took a deep breath, made a cross gesture, and put his hand on his heart. With the visit, the president and first lady Jill Biden have become the latest and most high-profile tourists to visit the royal family, and the state has drawn thousands of people lining up for miles.

“She was the same person as her image,” Biden said Sunday after signing a letter of condolence for her. “Decent, honorable and service.”

Biden’s itinerary has been closely watched by the British public, from his arrival on Air Force One on Saturday night, where he chose to engage with British officials, to his use of the presidential limousine dubbed “The Beast” as other world leaders were demoted. bus.

The UK is going through an “extremely rare” period of political transition with the new monarch of King Charles III and the recently appointed prime minister in Leeds Strasse, with Britons viewing the “special relationship” between the UK and the US as UCL global politics It’s a source of continuity and stability, said Brian Klass, associate professor of science.

White House officials said Biden’s trip was primarily a show of respect for the Queen and the British people, not a political or diplomatic corps, although the gathering of hundreds of heads of state and dignitaries could surface some global hotspots and highlight London and Washington. tensions are emerging between them.

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Biden was initially on a list of foreign leaders the U.K. government said Truss would meet before the funeral, but the White House said Saturday that the meeting would instead take place next week at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

Earlier this week, White House aides declined to outline an agenda for policy goals or preview any diplomatic meetings. “Certainly, the main reason for going to London is to pay tribute to the Queen, the Royal Family and the British people,” White House spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Friday. “That’s the main purpose of this visit. I don’t have any other meetings to talk about right now. “

When Biden’s UK itinerary was released hours later, it did not include meetings with officials outside the royal family. In addition to visiting Westminster Hall on Sunday, the president signed an official letter of condolence for the Queen and attended a reception of world leaders at Buckingham Palace by King Charles III. The first lady attended each event with him as part of a limited U.S. delegation that did not include any former U.S. presidents.

He will attend the Queen’s funeral at Westminster Abbey on Monday before returning to Washington to begin a week of high-stakes diplomacy at the United Nations. White House aides have said Biden will wait until the convention he starts in New York on Tuesday to push his foreign policy vision among his world leaders.

Given the politically sensitive nature of the Queen’s funeral, it was probably the safest approach, Klaas said. “There’s going to be a lot of downsides to Biden’s policy on this visit because it’s supposed to be about the Queen,” he said. “I think the trip will be very risk-averse. There’s no benefit to rocking the boat.”

But the president, who has chaired the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and has often touted the personal relationships he has forged with foreign officials over half a century of public life, may find it hard to avoid talking when he’s surrounded by colleagues around the world Political Internship.

The gathering of so many global leaders – including officials from France, Germany, India, Poland and China – has sparked concerns over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, high global inflation, China’s expanding sphere of influence, climate change, colonialism and Threats to democracy around the world. Many of the faces in the crowd at the funeral were familiar to the president.

“I’ve known every major world leader over the past 40 years,” Biden said at South Carolina State University’s commencement in December, repeating a favorite line. “I’ve spoken to more than 140 heads of state since I became president.”

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While Biden has spoken with Truss, he has yet to meet in person with the 47-year-old prime minister, who took office earlier this month. It is rare for a US president to visit the UK without a meeting with the prime minister, but the circumstances of this visit – the funeral of a queen who served 70 years – are also rare. It is still possible that Biden and Truss will meet by chance, as they will be in London for many of the same events.

Truss has taken a hard line on Russia and its aggression in Ukraine, in line with what Biden has sought from his foreign counterparts. But on other issues, including a post-Brexit deal on Northern Ireland and a potential trade deal between the U.K. and the U.S., Truss’s views are at odds with Biden’s.

By avoiding this potential tension on the road, Biden aims to show support for the British people who need time to mourn and honor Elizabeth, who has largely avoided political battles.

Biden said on Sunday that the way the Queen, who drank tea with him at Windsor Castle last year, reminded him of his mother by stroking him as she leaned over. “She looked like, ‘Are you okay, what can I do for you, what do you need?'” he said. “And, ‘Make sure you do what you’re supposed to do. ‘ “

The president adjusted his schedule for attending the funeral, changing the date of his speech in the United States from Tuesday to Wednesday. While Biden has fewer aides than usual and no formal bilateral meetings or press statements scheduled, he is here with all the gear of the American presidency and will no doubt impress those looking for clues on the state of U.K.-U.S. relations.

The British government has strongly encouraged some other foreign leaders to ditch their private jets and swap their personal limousines for shuttle buses, in part because of the logistical difficulties of accommodating such a large diplomatic entourage. However, Biden’s arrival outside London on Air Force One in a convoy of at least 15 vehicles was warmly received.

The White House said the official invitation to the U.S. to the funeral was only for Biden and the first lady. Queen Elizabeth died in September. 8 years old at 96 years old. Biden is the 13th U.S. president she has met during her seven-decade tenure.

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