Nov. 21 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden said Tuesday that the fentanyl crisis is an American tragedy, but solving it will require international coordination, including with China.
Prior to a White House meeting, Biden commented on his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping that took place last week, saying that he made important progress with China and Mexico. He also commented on the potential release of hostages by Hamas.
Next to Biden at the meeting table sat Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas to his right and Attorney General Merrick Garland to his left.
"During my meeting with President Xi, we took a critical step in resuming counternarcotics cooperation between our two countries," Biden said.
The president said China stopped direct shipments of fentanyl to the United States in 2019, but shipments of precursor chemicals and pill presses have continued to reach the Western Hemisphere. He described the drug trade as having evolved, as chemicals and pill presses are not controlled in the way finished drugs are.
"Chemical cartels use these components to manufacture these illegal substances and smuggle them into the United States," Biden said. "So the United States is going to seek to work together with China to target the fentanyl components."
Biden added that China has begun efforts to shut down companies that trade illicit precursor chemicals. Though he expressed some hesitancy to take Xi at his word.
"We're not just going to trust that this is happening," he said. "We have to verify it. And that's going to save lives I believe."
Biden also met with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador in San Francisco last week. He said he and Obrador agreed to expanding law enforcement cooperation and intelligence sharing to combat the distribution of fentanyl.
The president also called on lawmakers to pass his supplemental budget request for national security. The request allocates resources to address the fentanyl crisis, including support services for those impacted.
"As families all across the country gather this week with their loved ones for Thanksgiving, too many are going to face looking at an empty chair for the first time because so many people have died," Biden said. "It's heartbreaking. It really is an American tragedy."
Before addressing fentanyl, Biden opened his comments by discussing potential agreements that would see Hamas release hostages taken on Oct. 7. He said an agreement to bring some of the hostages home is "very close."
"I don't want to get into the details of these things because nothing is done until it's done," he said. "When we have more to say, we will. Things are looking good at the moment."