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Trump at UN: U.S. may have to ‘totally destroy’ N. Korea

Watch: Trump speaks at United Nations

President Donald Trump spoke at the United Nations on Tuesday morning, Sept. 19, 2017. Credit: PBS NewsHour


UNITED NATIONS — If the United States is forced to protect itself and its allies against Kim Jong Un’s nuclear ambitions, it “will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea,” President Donald Trump declared Tuesday in his debut address from the UN General Assembly rostrum.

“Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime,” he said, using a nickname he first assigned in a tweet to Kim, who had launched a ballistic missile over Japan.

The president stressed that each member state’s sovereignty is essential to their collective security, saying it is in their self-interest to unite against threats such as North Korea.

“If the righteous many do not confront the wicked few, then evil will triumph,” he said.

His bellicose speech was delivered from the UN’s distinctive green marble stage to a packed-to-capacity chamber of fellow world leaders.

Targets of his criticism ranged from the international institution itself to Pyongyang, Tehran and Venezuela, to multilateral deals he deemed unfair to the United States.

He employed provocative language, condemning “loser terrorists” and saying some portions of the world are “going to hell.”

He vowed to stop “radical Islamic terrorism,” a phrase he criticized Democrats for not embracing but resisted using himself during his May speech in Saudi Arabia to the Muslim world.

The ”America First” arc of his administration can be adopted by others, he said, a call for nationalism met with applause.

“Our success depends on a coalition of strong and independent nations that embrace their sovereignty,” Trump said, “to promote security, prosperity and peace for themselves and for the world.”

He thanked China and Russia for supporting UN Security Council sanctions on North Korea, but did not use the speech to urge them to further exert economic influence.

He condemned the government of Venezuela as a “socialist dictatorship” and that of Iran as a “murderous regime.”

He hinted that he may soon withdraw from the Iran denuclearization pact negotiated by his predecessor, Barack Obama.

“Frankly, that deal is an embarrassment to the United States, and I don’t think you’ve heard the last of it,” Trump said.

The president held fast to his past criticisms of the UN.

The United States shoulders a disproportionate share of costs, though the investment would be worth it if the organization “actually” could accomplish stated goals such as peace, he said.

“Too often, the focus of this organization has not been on results, but on bureaucracy and process,” Trump said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he had never heard “a bolder or more courageous speech” at the UN.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders offered context. “Presidents have always been clear to deter threats: ‘We could, obviously, destroy North Korea with our arsenals,” she tweeted, quoting Obama.

Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) applauded the speech as decisive. “Masterful speech by @POTUS Trump at UN. Proud of American values. No apologies. No retreat. God Bless America!” he tweeted.

Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-St. Albans) was critical of the hawkish approach. “It’s clear from his UN speech that Pres Trump doesn’t realize the real strength in deeper engagement with our allies and global community,” he tweeted.

Bruce Bennett, senior defense analyst with the RAND Corporation, said the sequence and the “if” of Trump’s comments on North Korea is important.

“He’s talking about a wartime situation,” Bennett said.

Trump later Tuesday softened his tone on the UN at a luncheon hosted by the secretary-general.

“Let’s give this, as a toast, to the potential, the great, great potential of the United Nations,” he said as the officials in the room raised their glasses.

Excerpts from President Donald Trump’s address to the UN General Assembly.

On North Korea

“The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.”

On North Korean leader Kim Jung Un

“Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and his regime.”

On the Iran nuclear deal

“That deal is an embarrassment to the United States, and I don’t think you have heard the last of it. Believe me.”

On national sovereignty

“The true question for the United Nations today and for people all over the world . . . is a basic one,” Trump said. “Are will still patriots? Do we love our nations enough to protect their sovereignty and take ownerships of their future?”

On the United Nations

“We do not expect diverse countries to share the same cultures, values or systems of government. But we do expect all nations to uphold their core sovereignty and respect the interests of their own people and rights of every other sovereign nation. This is the beautiful vision of this institution and the foundation for cooperation and success.”

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