WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - US President Joe Biden on Thursday (March 25) said he expects to run for president again in 2024 and defended his policy to provide shelter to unaccompanied children crossing the US border from Mexico at his first solo news conference since taking office.
Biden also set a new goal of administering 200 million vaccination shots against Covid-19 in the United States in his first 100 days in office and claimed economic progress as he held his first solo news conference since taking office.
He warned North Korea of consequences for launching two ballistic missiles on Thursday and said he was consulting with US allies on the way forward.
At 78 years old, many political analysts believe Biden could decide to serve only one term. But asked whether he planned to run for re-election, he said this was his plan, and would keep Vice-President Kamala Harris as his running mate.
“My answer is yes, I plan to run for re-election. That’s my expectation,” he said.
Struggling to contain a surge in border crossings, Biden told reporters that no previous administration had refused care and shelter to children coming over from Mexico – except that of his predecessor, Donald Trump.
“I’m not going to do it,” Biden said, noting he had selected Harris to lead diplomatic efforts with Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador aimed at stemming the migration flow.
Appearing in the White House East Room, Biden said his initial goal of administering 100 million vaccination shots in his first 100 days in office was reached last week, 42 days ahead of schedule.
“I know it’s ambitious, twice our original goal, but no other country in the world has even come close,” the Democratic president said.
Biden said a May 1 deadline to withdraw US troops in Afghanistan will be difficult to meet. “It’s going to be hard to meet the May 1 deadline,” he said. But he added, “We are not staying a long time” in Afghanistan, site of America’s longest war.
Of North Korea’s missile launches, Biden said, “If they choose to escalate, we will respond accordingly.” But he also said he was prepared for “some form of diplomacy” with North Korea “but it has to be conditioned upon the end results of denuclearisation.”
Pyongyang wants the United States and other nations to ease economic sanctions imposed over its nuclear weapons programme.
Biden also claimed economic progress with the news that the number of people claiming unemployment insurance had dropped significantly.
“There are still too many Americans out of work, too many families hurting and still a lot of work to do. But I can say to the American people: Help is here and hope is on the way,” he said.
Biden called for Republicans in the US Congress to help him move forward with his agenda or “continue the politics of division” as he takes on issues like gun control, climate change and immigration reform.
“All I know is I was hired to solve problems, not create divisions,” he said.
Biden was repeatedly pressed to defend his migration policy along the US border with Mexico. Biden said the increase in migration was cyclical.
“It happens every single solitary year. There is a significant increase in the number of people coming to the border in the winter months,” he said. “It happens every year.” He said many migrants were fleeing problems in their home countries and blamed Trump, for dismantling parts of the US immigration system.
Most of Biden’s predecessors had held their first news conference in their first two months in office, but the Democratic incumbent has so far taken few questions.