Joe Biden has landed in the UK on the first leg of a European tour which will see him meet Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and the King on Monday.
Air Force One touched down at London Stansted on Sunday evening before the pomp and politics gets under way during the US president’s layover on the way to the Nato summit in Lithuania.Mr Biden will first meet the Prime Minister in Downing Street on Monday morning after defending the “difficult” decision to send cluster munitions to Kyiv.Mr Sunak responded by saying Britain “discourages” their use as one of 123 signatories of a convention banning the bombs, but No 10 would not say whether he will raise the issue.Later on Monday Mr Biden will be received by the King at Windsor Castle where the pair will discuss the climate crisis.
Mr Sunak stopped short of criticising his counterpart on Saturday, but emphasised that the UK “discourages” use of cluster munitions, which are outlawed by many countries worldwide.
The UK is one of 123 signatories to a convention banning the controversial munitions’ use in warfare, due to their devastating impact on civilians.
The US and Ukraine have not signed up to the ban, and Russia has been using cluster munitions in the conflict.
Both Mr Sunak and Mr Biden will attend a Nato summit in Lithuania on Tuesday and are expected to urge allies to increase their defence spending as he warns they face “unprecedented” security challenges.
The White House said Mr Biden will “compare notes” with Mr Sunak on the Ukrainian counteroffensive against Russia.
At the summit in Vilnius, Downing Street said that Mr Sunak will ask allies to up their defence spending to ensure it is prepared for future threats.
In a statement, the PM said: “As we face new and unprecedented challenges to our physical and economic security, our alliances are more important than ever.
“The UK is Europe’s leading Nato ally, we are the United States’ most important trade, defence and diplomatic partner, and we are at the forefront of providing Ukraine with the support they need to succeed on the battlefield.
“We have forged and invested in these alliances because we know they are the foundation of our strength and security. And I will continue to lead a United Kingdom which puts our international relationships at the heart of delivering for the British people.”
The UK is among a minority of Nato members that meets the alliance’s commitment to spend at least 2% of national income on defence.
Estimates for last year had France, Germany and Spain as included in those not meeting the target.
Mr Biden has said it was a “difficult decision” to send cluster bombs to Ukraine and sought to justify the move as needed to fortify Kyiv’s depleting ammunition stocks.
In previews of an exclusive CNN interview set to air on Sunday afternoon, UK time, the president defends the decision- describing it as a temporary measure to halt Russian tanks in their tracks while Ukraine’s munitions stocks are low.
But Mr Sunak chose not to express support for the move during a by-election campaign stop to Selby, pointing to the UK’s commitment to the Convention on Cluster Munitions.
“Well, the UK is signatory to a convention which prohibits the production or use of cluster munitions and discourages their use,” he told broadcasters.
“We will continue to do our part to support Ukraine against Russia’s illegal and unprovoked invasion, but we’ve done that by providing heavy battle tanks and most recently long-range weapons, and hopefully all countries can continue to support Ukraine.
“Russia’s act of barbarism is causing untold suffering to millions of people.
“It’s right that we collectively stand up to it and I’ll be heading off to the Nato summit next week in Vilnius, where we will be discussing exactly this with our allies how we can strengthen our support for Ukraine.”
Cluster munitions are not the “appropriate weapons” to send to Ukraine, Rachel Reeves has said.
The shadow chancellor told the Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme on Sky News: “We all agree that Ukraine needs to be properly armed to fight Russia and their illegal invasion.
“But I am concerned about the use of cluster bombs, and it is not just the UK who has these concerns, other countries clearly do as well.
“So I would like to find a way to properly arm Ukraine but without using these weapons which can have an impact, not just on the battlefield that time, on that day, but for months and years afterwards.
“That is something that causes me deep concern, and many other people as well.
“While I support President Biden’s desire to ensure Ukraine is fully armed to fight Russia, I am not convinced that these are the appropriate weapons.”
What are cluster bombs?
The weapons deploy a large number of bomblets across a wide area.
Unexploded bomblets can continue to pose a threat to civilians long after conflicts end.
The Convention on Cluster Munitions, which prohibits their use or stockpiling because of their indiscriminate effect on civilian populations.
The US, Ukraine and Russia are not signatories.
Both Moscow and Kyiv have used cluster munitions so far in the war.
Source : ITV