Appearing before reporters for more than an hour, Biden seemed well-prepared, read from written papers occasionally and calmly took questions, a sharp contrast to the often raucous, combative news conferences held by his Republican predecessor, Donald Trump.
Biden set a new goal of administering 200 million vaccination shots against COVID-19 in the United States in his first 100 days in office.
He warned North Korea of consequences for launching two ballistic missiles on Thursday and said he was consulting with U.S. allies on the way forward.
And Biden sought to bring down the tone of rhetoric with China after his top aides had bitter exchanges with Chinese counterparts in Alaska earlier this month.
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 he planned to do so, keeping 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. On Jan. 20, Biden became the oldest U.S. president to be inaugurated.
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 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, and that he would now double the target.
“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 backed away from a May 1 deadline to withdraw US troops in Afghanistan after Trump tried but failed to pull them out before leaving office.
“It’s going to be hard to meet the May 1 deadline,” said Biden. But he added, “We are not staying a long time” in Afghanistan, site of America’s longest war. He said he did not think the troops would still be there next year.
Biden read carefully from talking points in responding to a question about North Korea’s missile launches, which have alarmed US allies Japan and South Korea. “If they choose to escalate, we will respond accordingly,” he said.
He said he was prepared for “some form of diplomacy” with North Korea “but it has to be conditioned upon the end result of denuclearization.”
Pyongyang wants the United States and other nations to ease economic sanctions imposed over its nuclear weapons program. U.S. officials have said they have tried to engage with North Korea diplomatically but received no response.
After difficult Alaska talks, Biden said he was not looking for a confrontation with China but would insist that Chinese President Xi Jinping adhere to international norms on trade.
“What I’ve told him in person on several occasions is that we’re not looking for confrontation, although we know there will be steep, steep competition…but we’ll insist that China play by the international rules, fair competition, fair practices, fair trade,” he said.
Biden called for Republicans in the US Congress to help him move forward with his agenda as he takes on issues like gun control, climate change and immigration reform.
He said he believes the Democratic-controlled US Senate should make it harder for Republicans to use a parliamentary blocking manoeuvre called the filibuster that requires 60 votes to advance most legislation in the 100-seat chamber, saying it is being abused.
Biden was repeatedly pressed to defend his migration policy along the U.S. 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.