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US Elections 2020: Where do Trump, Biden stand on China, Iran, troops in Middle East?

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President Donald Trump won the 2016 election promising to put “America First,” overturn what he said were unfair trade deals and force US allies to pay more toward joint defense measures. Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden pledges to restore US global leadership and reverse many of Trump’s foreign policy actions.

What are Trump’s and Biden’s stances on foreign policy issues?


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US-China relations

Trump: Entered into a high-stakes trade war with China before reaching a partial trade deal in January. Trump has since shut the door on negotiations, saying he was unhappy with Beijing’s handling of the pandemic.

In July, Trump issued an executive order to end the United States’ special commercial treatment of Hong Kong after Beijing imposed national security legislation on the former British colony, and his administration abruptly told China to close its Houston consulate amid accusations of spying.

Biden: Has called Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic a historic blunder.

Argues that China relishes a chaotic Trump administration, his alienation of American allies, and his abdication of US leadership roles in global institutions, such as the World Health Organization.

Says he will correct this by bringing multilateral pressure to bear on China through renewed relations with US allies.

Iran nuclear deal

Trump: Pulled the United States out of the nuclear deal reached with Iran, European nations and Russia during the Obama administration.

Biden: Says he would deal with Iran through diplomacy and re-enter the nuclear agreement, but only if Iran first returned to compliance with the deal’s restrictions on its nuclear program.

US military in the Middle East

Trump: Has questioned the benefits of US military interventions in the Middle East, especially the 2003 invasion of Iraq, but sent more troops to the region after the US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal increased tensions. In January, after Iranian proxies and US forces clashed in Iraq, he ordered a strike that killed Soleimani.

Biden: Proposes a narrower focus for the US military in the region on counterterrorism and working with local allies.

Has said the strike that killed the powerful Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani “put the United States and Iran on a collision course.”

Wants to end US support for Saudi Arabia’s intervention in Yemen, which Trump has defended.


Trump: Has said he wants a full military withdrawal from Afghanistan to end America’s longest war, and posited that remaining troops should be “home by Christmas” – although a top adviser has said Washington would reduce its forces to 2,500 by early next year.

In February, the Trump administration reached a deal with the Taliban on phased US force reductions, but it was dependent on the Islamist militant group meeting conditions. Escalating violence since then has raised questions about whether Trump can bring all US troops home anytime soon.

Biden: Has said he will bring the vast majority of US troops home from Afghanistan and narrowly focus the mission there on fighting al Qaeda and Islamic State.

Meeting North Korea’s leader

Trump: Met with North Korea’s supreme leader Kim Jong Un three times in 2018 and 2019, but efforts to get Kim to abandon the country’s nuclear weapons program have stalled.

Biden: Has accused Trump of giving away US leverage over the North Korean regime for little in return and said he would not meet Kim without preconditions.


Trump: Has angered NATO members and other US allies, while refusing to criticize Russia’s leader Vladimir Putin, even when US intelligence officials concluded the Russian military had interfered in the 2016 presidential election.

Trump announced in June that he would reduce the number of US troops in Germany by about 9,500.

Biden: Says will strengthen alliances like the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which Biden says would undo damage to American leadership and credibility inflicted by Trump.

Has warned that Russia, China and others who try to interfere in US elections will face serious consequences if he is elected president.

Will revisit the issue of US troops in Germany.

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