Donald Trump threatens to ‘totally destroy’ North Korea in UN speech
President castigates a small group of rogue regimes and says Iran nuclear deal an embarrassment to the United States
Donald Trump has threatened to totally destroy North Korea, in a bellicose first address to the United Nations general assembly in which he lashed out at a litany of US adversaries and called on righteous countries to confront them.
The speech was greeted in the UN chamber mostly with silence and occasional outbreaks of disapproving murmurs, as Trump castigated a succession of hostile regimes.
In an address heavy with echoes of George W Bushs Axis of Evil State of the Union address more than 15 years earlier, Trump said: The scourge of our planet today are a small group of rogue regimes.
If the righteous many do not confront the wicked few, then evil will triumph, the president said.
He first singled out North Korea, recounting its history of kidnapping, oppression, and missile and nuclear tests.
The US has great strength and patience, Trump said. But he added: If it is forced to defend ourselves or our allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.
As alarmed murmurs spread around the hall, Trump had another barb. Using his newly adopted epithet for Kim Jong-un, Trump said: Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.
He said the US was ready, willing and able to take military action, but said hopefully that would be unnecessary if the rest of the world stepped up its efforts to constrain the Pyongyang regime.
That is what the United Nations is for, the president said. Lets see how they do.
Trump moved on to Iran, claiming that the Islamic Republic had robbed a great people of its destiny.
The entire world understands that the good people of Iran want change and, other than the vast military power of the United States, that Irans people are what their leaders fear the most, he said, adding that the day would come when the Iranian people would be faced with a choice between the path of poverty, bloodshed and terror and their countrys proud roots as a center of civilisation, culture, and wealth.
Trump said the Iran nuclear deal, signed by the US under the Obama administration with five other countries two years ago, was one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into.
Frankly, that deal is an embarrassment to the United States, he said. I dont think youve heard the last of it believe me.
Trump must decide by 15 October on whether to certify Iranian compliance or not. His threatened withdrawal of presidential endorsement could lead to Congress reimposing nuclear-related sanctions and the collapse of the agreement.
Like much of the 41-minute speech, Trumps reference to the Iran deal was met by stony silence. The deal is overwhelmingly supported by UN member states, including most of Washingtons closest allies.
The French president, Emmanuel Macron, also making his UN debut, said he had offered to discuss further constraints on Iranian missile development and curbs on Tehrans nuclear programme after 2025, when important elements of the 2015 deal expire. But Macron warned that if the existing deal was abandoned it would lead only to a no mans land, a nuclear arms race and a situation as serious as the North Korean crisis.
The Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, responded with a tweet, saying Trumps ignorant hate speech belongs in medieval times not the 21st Century UN and adding that it was unworthy of a reply. Fake empathy for Iranians fools no one, he said.
The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, was one of the few to applaud when the US president said the world could not abide by the Iran agreement if it provides cover for the eventual construction of a nuclear programme.
Netanyahu swiftly issued a statement praising Trump. In over 30 years in my experience with the UN, I never heard a bolder or more courageous speech, Netanyahu said. 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.
Trump is also almost entirely isolated on climate change. Unlike the other opening speakers, including the UN secretary general, Antnio Guterres, Trump made no mention in his speech of an issue that most other leaders in the chamber consider to be the greatest threat to the world.
When his turn to speak came, Macron insisted that though the Paris climate accord, which Trump said he would leave, could be improved, it will not be renegotiated. He said he profoundly respected the US decision but said the door will always be open to them.