Biden calls for expansion of security council as part UN reforms

US president criticises Russia over war in Ukraine and says he does not want new cold war with China

US president Joe Biden has called for an expansion of the number of countries with seats on the UN security council and for fewer uses of national vetoes.

In an address to the United Nations in New York on Wednesday, he also said “a nuclear war cannot be won and should never be fought”.

Mr Biden accused Russia of making “irresponsible nuclear threats” and said the US would not allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon.

He also said the US did not want a cold war with China.


Mr Biden said the United States supported Israel as well as a two-state solution in relation to Palestine.

The president said the UN security council should be expanded as part of a new reforms with permanent positions granted to nations outside the group of US, Russia, France, China and the United Kingdom, which has effectively remained unchanged for decades.

“I also believe the time has come for this institution to become more inclusive, so they can better respond to the needs of today’s world. Members of the UN security council, including the United States, should consistently uphold and defend the UN charter and refrain from the use of the veto, except in rare, extraordinary situations,” Mr Biden said.

“That is also why the United States supports increasing the number of both permanent and non-permanent representatives of the council. This includes permanent seats for those nations. We have long supported permanent seats for countries in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean.”

Mr Biden said he wanted to be direct about the competition between the United States and China.

“As we manage shifting geopolitical trends, the United States will conduct itself as a reasonable leader. We do not seek conflict, we do not seek a cold war. We do not ask any nation to choose between the United States or any other partner. But the United States will be unabashed and promoting our vision of a free, open, secure and prosperous world and what we have to offer communities of nations.”

He also said the US continued to oppose unilateral changes in the status quo by either side in relation to Taiwan.

Mr Biden strongly criticised Russia over its invasion of Ukraine. He described it as a “brutal, needless war” that was “chosen by one man” — Russian president Vladimir Putin.

“Let us speak plainly: A permanent member of the United Nations security council invaded its neighbour, attempted to erase the sovereign state from the map,” Mr Biden said. He said Russia had “shamelessly violated the core tenets of the United Nations charter.”

“Putin claims he had to act because Russia was threatened, but no one threatened Russia and no one other than Russia sought conflict”. Mr Biden said Russia’s was about extinguishing the right of Ukraine to exist as a state. He said the United States wanted the war to end, “on just terms”.

Mr Biden also announced the US government would provide more than $2.9 billion in new funding aimed at tackling food insecurity. “If parents cannot feed their children, nothing else matters, ” he said.

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent