Raising the heat in his stand-off with North Korea, US President Donald Trump threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea in his first address at the United Nations General Assembly. Mocking the country’s leader Kim Jong Un as a “rocket man”, the US President offered a grim portrait of a world in peril if the North Korea leader is allowed to persist. In saying so, Trump adopted a more confrontational approach to solving global challenges from Iran to Venezuela, and made an unabashed defense of U.S. sovereignty.
In his speech to the assembly, consisting of 193 world members, Trump said:
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.
This hard-edged speech from Trump, however, was mostly greeted with occasional disapproving murmur and silence. Spreading the acid further, Trump said:
Rocket man is on a suicide mission for himself and his regime.
Sensing that murmurs had filled the entire hall, Trump said that the US is all “ready, willing and able” to use its military power against North Korea though such military action would be unnecessary if the “righteous” nations from around the world join his endeavor to constraint the Pyongyang regime.
His remarks did not fail to put off many of the world leaders present at the green-marbled General Assembly Hall, where just minutes earlier as the U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appealed for statesmanship, saying:
We must not sleepwalk our way into war.
Lashing out at the US President later in the day, the Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom was quoted saying:
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It was the wrong speech, at the wrong time, to the wrong audience.
Meanwhile, right after his take on North Korea, Trump’s speech 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 Iran’s people are what their leaders fear the most.
Criticizing the earlier Obama Government for engaging with Iran along and two other countries on a nuclear deal, Trump said that it was “one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into.”
He was quoted saying:
Frankly, that deal is an embarrassment to the United States. I don’t think you’ve heard the last of it – believe me.
Like much of the 41-minute speech, Trump’s reference to the Iran deal was met by stony silence. This is mostly because the deal was overwhelmingly supported by UN member states, which includes most of Washington’s closest allies.
Trump’s speech against Iran was not received well by the Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif. He later responded with a tweet, saying Trump’s “ignorant hate speech belongs in medieval times – not the 21st Century UN”. He further added that it was “unworthy of a reply” and said:
Fake empathy for Iranians fools no one.
Meanwhile, the Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu, was one of the few to applaud the US president, especially when the latter said that the world could not abide by the Iran agreement “if it provides cover for the eventual construction of a nuclear program.” He said:
In over 30 years in my experience with the UN, I never heard a bolder or more courageous speech. 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.