UNITED NATIONS — President Donald Trump, in a combative debut speech to the U.N. General Assembly, threatened the "total destruction'" of North Korea if it does not abandon its drive toward nuclear weapons.
Trump, who has ramped up his rhetoric throughout the escalating crisis with North Korea, told the murmuring crowd at the U.N. on Tuesday that "it is far past time for the nations of the world to confront" Kim Jong Un and said that Kim's "reckless pursuit of nuclear weapons" poses a threat to "the entire world with an unthinkable loss of human life.
"Rocket man is on a suicide mission for himself and his regime," Trump said about the North Korean leader. He said of the U.S.: "If it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea."
Elected on the nationalist slogan "America First," Trump argued that individual nations should act in their own self-interest, yet rally together when faced with a common threat. Using bellicose language rare for an U.S. president at the rostrum of the United Nations, Trump touched upon hot spots around the globe, declaring "The scourge of our planet is a group of rogue regimes."
He urged nations to join together to stop Iran's nuclear program — he declared the deal to restrain it an "embarrassment" for the United States — and defeat "loser terrorists" who have struck violence across the globe. He denounced "radical Islamic terrorism," the inflammatory label he has recently shied away from. He warned that some violence-plagued portions of the world "are going to hell." And he made little mention of Russia.
North Korea drew most of Trump's attention and anger.
Trump, who has previously warned of "fire and fury" if Pyongyang does not back down, claimed that "no one has shown more contempt for other nations and for the well-being of their own people than the depraved regime in North Korea." And he scolded nations that it was "an outrage" to enabled and traded with North Korea, seeming to slight China, though he did not mention it by name.
Addressing the General Assembly is a milestone moment for any president, but one particularly significant for Trump, a relative newcomer to foreign policy who has at times rattled the international community with his unpredictability. He has pulled the Unites States out of multinational agreements, considered shrinking the U.S. military footprint in the world and deployed bombastic language on North Korea that has been criticized by other world leaders.
Trump frequently belittled the U.N. as a candidate and some within his White House believe the U.N acts as a global bureaucracy that infringes on the sovereignty of individual countries. He urged the world leaders to embrace their own "national sovereignty to do more to ensure the prosperity and security of their own countries.
But the president stood before world leaders and a global audience and declared that U.N. members, acting as a collection of self-interested nations, should unite to confront global dangers.
"I will always put American first. Just like you, the leaders of your countries, should and always put your countries first," said Trump, who assured the U.N. that the United States would not abdicate its leadership position in the world but needed other countries to contribute more.
"The U.S. will forever be a great friend to the world and especially to its allies," the Republican president said. "But we can no longer be taken advantage of or enter into a one-sided deal in which the United States gets nothing in return."