United Nations, United States | AFP | President Donald Trump warned “Rocket Man” Kim Jong-Un is on a “suicide mission” and threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea if it targets the United States or its allies, in a bellicose maiden address to the UN Tuesday.
Appearing before the 193-member organization that emerged from the ashes of World War II, Trump boasted of America’s military strength, signaled he was ready to rip up a nuclear accord with the “murderous regime” in Tehran, and berated US foes from Pyongyang to Caracas.
“The United States has great strength and patience,” Trump said — as he followed in the footsteps of US presidents from Harry Truman to Barack Obama – “but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.”
“Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime,” he said, using his new nickname for the North Korean leader. “The United States is ready, willing and able, but hopefully this will not be necessary.”
Throughout the 42-minute remarks, Trump did little to temper his trademark tough-guy language for the assembled diplomats, warning swathes of the world were “going to hell” and calling any trade with North Korea an “outrage.”
Trump pilloried Iran as a corrupt “rogue state” and threatened to rip up the landmark international deal struck in 2015 to curb Tehran’s nuclear program.
“Frankly, that deal is an embarrassment to the United States, and I don’t think you’ve heard the last of it,” Trump told the UN General Assembly.
“Believe me. It is time for the entire world to join us in demanding that Iran’s government end its pursuit of death and destruction.”
But, the US leader added, the greatest threat to the Tehran regime was not the American military, but the Iranian people who want change.
– ‘America’s interests’ –
The packed General Assembly hall greeted Trump’s tough rhetoric and calls for individual nation states — rather than supranational bodies — to form the basis of the global order with some polite clapping.
But a few pauses for applause were met with stony silence.
Trump did not back away, suggesting his populist “America First” campaign rhetoric should be an example to other UN members.
“Our respect for sovereignty is also a call for action. All people deserve a government that cares for their safety, their interests.”
“As long as I hold this office, I will defend America’s interests above all else, but in fulfilling our obligations to our nations, we also realize that it’s in everyone’s interests to seek the future where all nations can be sovereign, prosperous and secure,” he said.
After decades in which America has led the drive toward a global rules-based order, Trump indicated his foreign policy would define the national interest much more narrowly.
“For too long the American people were told that mammoth, multinational trade deals, unaccountable international tribunals and powerful global bureaucracies were the best way to promote their success,” Trump said.
“But as those promises flowed, millions of jobs vanished and thousands of factories disappeared.”
The speech provoked strong responses almost immediately — drawing praise from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Trump notably made no mention of Middle East peace process — or climate change, or the crisis in Burma — during his remarks and scarcely touched on relations with China and Russia.
“In over 30 years in my experience with the UN, I never heard a bolder or more courageous speech,” said Netanyahu.
“President Trump spoke the truth about the great dangers facing our world and issued a powerful call to confront them in order to ensure the future of humanity,” he said in a statement.
Prominent Republican Senator Orrin Hatch welcomed Trump’s challenge to North Korea’s Kim.
“Good for him,” Hatch told reporters in Washington. “It’s about time that somebody talked turkey to that little bastard over there.”
– ‘Irresponsible’ –
However Venezuela’s foreign minister Jorge Arreaza, was less enthused, accusing Trump of racism and seeking a new Cold War after the US president said he was ready to act to “restore their democracy.”
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned the United States would forfeit the trust of the international community if it abandons the nuclear accord with Tehran.
“If the United States were not to adhere to the commitments and trample upon this agreement, this will mean it will carry with it the subsequent lack of trust of countries,” Rouhani, in New York to attend the UN General Assembly, told NBC.
French President Emmanuel Macron, in his own UN address, said ending that deal would be a “grave error, and not respecting it would be irresponsible.”
At home Trump’s remarks were also pilloried by Democrats, including influential Senator Diane Feinstein.
“The goals of the United Nations are to foster peace and promote global cooperation,” she said. “Today, the president used it as a stage to threaten war.”
“He aims to unify the world through tactics of intimidation, but in reality he only further isolates the United States,” she said.