Speaking at his first formal press conference in the White House as president, Joe Biden touches on range of issues including troop pullout, row with China and North Korea, border with Mexico, and coronavirus pandemic.

US President Joe Biden answers questions during the first news conference of his presidency in the East Room of the White House on March 25, 2021 in Washington, DC.
US President Joe Biden answers questions during the first news conference of his presidency in the East Room of the White House on March 25, 2021 in Washington, DC. (AFP)

US President Joe Biden has said it will be "hard" to meet the May 1 deadline to withdraw all American soldiers from Afghanistan as part of a Taliban deal, but stressed troops are not there indefinitely.

"It is going to be hard to meet the May 1 deadline in terms of tactical reasons. It's hard to get those troops out," Biden said on Thursday in his first press conference since taking office on January 20.

"We will leave, the question is when we leave," he said. 

Asked whether he envisions US soldiers still in Afghanistan in 2022, the president said: "I can't picture that being the case."

READ MORE: Biden says US might miss deadline to exit Afghanistan

Biden defends border policy

Biden pushed back at claims the flow of undocumented immigrants at the US southern border has reached crisis levels, saying the surge is a mostly seasonal problem that happens each year.

"There is a significant increase in the number of people coming to the border in the winter months of January, February, March. It happens every year," he said.

Pushing back on criticisms that he has opened the door to undocumented immigrants, Biden said his government is committed to allowing unaccompanied migrant children to enter the United States for humanitarian reasons.

More than 9,000 came in February, a number on track to top 14,000 this month, swamping facilities of the US Customs and Border Patrol for processing them.

He also said that the United States is allowing a number of families to enter because Mexico is refusing to accept their return.

"We are sending back the vast majority of the families that are coming," Biden said.

"They should all be going back."

READ MORE: Biden tasks Harris with tackling challenge of migrants on Mexico border

North Korea warning

Biden said that the United States will "respond accordingly" if North Korea escalates its missile testing.

"We are consulting with our partners and allies," Biden said. "And there will be responses if they choose to escalate.

"We will respond accordingly."

Biden said he was "prepared for some form of diplomacy" with North Korea but it "has to be conditioned upon the end result of denuclearisation."

READ MORE: US says North Korea test fired several short-range missiles

Goal of 200M vaccine doses in first 100 days

President Biden also launched a new goal of administering 200 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine in the United States within his first 100 days in office, double his original pledge.

"Today I'm setting a second goal, and that is, we will by my 100th day in office have administered 200 million shots in people's arms," Biden told reporters.

"I know it's ambitious, twice our original goal," he added. "But no other country in the world has even come close –– not even close –– to what we are doing, and I believe we can do it."

READ MORE: Vaccine makers tell Congress US supply will surge in coming weeks

China's Xi doesn't have a 'democratic bone' in his body

Criticising China, President Biden said he had made it clear to Chinese President Xi Jinping that the United States was not looking for confrontation, but would insist that China play by international rules for fair competition and fair trade.

Biden said he knew Xi well from his role as vice president under former President Barack Obama.

"He doesn't have a democratic - with a small 'd' - bone in his body, but he's a smart, smart guy," Biden said. 

READ MORE: On China, is Biden really a radical departure from Trump?

Source: TRTWorld and agencies