On Sunday, President Joe Biden flew to London for a quickie visit to the UK during which included meeting the King at Windsor Castle and Prime Minister Sunak at 10 Downing Street. Mr Biden attended the king’s mother’s funeral in September of last year, but didn’t come over for the coronation.
He sent instead his wife, Jill Biden, and granddaughter to represent him; now he is “dropping by” for less than 24 hours to renew his acquaintance with His Majesty King Charles III on his way to the NATO summit in relatively closeby Lithuania.
The King may not have the late Queen’s experience and international reputation, but he is a gifted diplomat and much liked by world leaders, reports London’s Daily Telegraph newspaper.
It is as well, for the president’s visit comes just when Anglo-American relations appear strained. The King, being above politics, is well placed to improve them through deploying the soft power of the Crown. As well as at the late Queen’s funeral, he and the president met at the Cop26 summit in Glasgow in 2021, when His Majesty was still Prince of Wales.
When the president, proud of his Irish roots through his mother, went to Ireland in April, he “dropped by” in Ulster for a few hours before going on to the Republic, where he seemed far more at home. In one of what are now becoming routine gaffes, he said he was in Ireland to try to ensure z” the Brit’s diddn’t screw around with the Good Friday Agreement. This has, understandably, led to suspicions that Biden doesn’t like Britain, or Brits.
He has also had his administration nix any plans for an early trade deal with the United Kingdom.
Political differences, however, exist to be thrashed out between politicians, and when the president is here he will meet Rishi Sunak, presumably to do just that. He will see the King at Windsor on Monday. The non-political aspect of our relations with America – the relationship based on common values and, to an extent, heritage – is something the King can advance, assuming President Biden lets him.
That appears to be the case. The White House has said the trip, brief though it be, is intended “to further strengthen the close relationship between our nations”.
The King will no doubt do all he can to expedite this: it is to be hoped the president will have been briefed and encouraged to pursue any opening that thus arises.
Last month, he agreed to an easing of trade restrictions with the UK when he met Mr Sunak in Washington, so the ground is prepared for the King to use this brief encounter to emphasise that Britain and America have far more in common than what might divide them.
The most recent area of friction between the UK and the US could be over the provision of deadly cluster bombs to Ukraine, though, of course, the King himself has no input into such issues.
Biden had earlier met briefly with Rishi Sunak at Downing Street to discuss the issue. A spokesman for the PM said Sunak and Biden discussed the US’ decision to supply controversial cluster bombs to Ukraine.
The weapons have been banned by more than 100 countries, including the UK, because of the danger they pose to civilians.
The prime minister’s official spokesman said it “was a difficult choice for the US” to provide the weapons and it had been “forced on them by Russia’s war of aggression”, PA media reports.
The spokesman said Sunak was upholding the UK’s requirements under an international convention banning the weapons.
Sources: Daily Telegraph, BBC.