- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 17, 2017

President Trump arrives Monday at his first United Nations General Assembly on a mission to cultivate friendships and call out enemies, officials said, with a plan to aggressively put his “America First” agenda into action on the world stage.

Mr. Trump will be pushing reforms to the U.N. and rethinking America’s massive contributions, brokering economic deals around the world and trying to inspire global resolve to confront North Korea, Iran, Islamic State and other threats, top aides say.

“We can all say it is a new day at the U.N.,” said Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. “It’s not just about talking. It’s about action.”

But the new course the president has charted for America has unnerved many of the roughly 120 world leaders who will gather in New York, many of whom were far more comfortable with President Obama. They will closely watch and listen for direction from the unpredictable new leader of the free world.

In eight months in office, Mr. Trump has demonstrated his willingness to use American military and economic power. Missile strikes on Syria, get-tough trade measures on China and threats of “fire and fury” against North Korea have many world leaders wondering what’s next.

“The world is still trying to take the measure of this president. World leaders still wake up in the morning if they happen to be a friend of the president of the United States, [and] they also wonder what does it mean to be a friend of the president,” said Jon Alterman, senior vice president of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank. “For a number of leaders, this is going to be their first chance to see him, to judge him, to try to get on his good side.”

The grueling schedule will test the skills and endurance of Mr. Tump, who, like most other first-year U.S. presidents, arrives at the United Nations as a novice in international diplomacy.

The tightly choreographed weeklong event also poses a unique challenge to Mr. Trump, who has a propensity for going off script and delights in upsetting convention.

“The president will do some surprising things at the General Assembly, some of which people will think are amazingly positive and some which people will think are amazingly negative,” said Mr. Alterman. “Hard to imagine him being scripted for the whole week.”

The president has a packed scheduled for the four-day event in New York, including his hotly anticipated speech to the assembled delegations Tuesday.

On Monday, he joins senior U.N. leadership and leaders of more than 120 nations to discuss reforms to the institution. Mr. Trump campaigned for reform during his presidential race last year.

Last year, he tweeted that the U.N. had great potential but had become “a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time. So sad!”

Budget cuts

Mr. Trump has proposed major cuts to the U.N. budget and a reorganization of its sprawling bureaucracy. The U.S. is the largest contributor to the United Nations, paying 25 percent of its regular operating budget and nearly 30 percent of the separate peacekeeping budget.

“We basically have the president headlining a U.N. reform effort, which would really support the secretary-general,” said Mrs. Haley, who has emerged as a leading foreign policy voice in Mr. Trump’s administration. “But the impressive part is we asked other countries to sign on to their support of reform, and 120 countries have signed on and will be in attendance. That’s a miraculous number.”

Later, Mr. Trump meets with leaders of France and Israel for wide-ranging discussions that likely will include how to confront Iran’s destabilizing actions across the Middle East.

He caps the day with a working dinner at Trump Tower with presidents of Peru, Colombia and Brazil, opening a dialogue about the crisis in Venezuela.

On Tuesday, Mr. Trump will deliver his first address to the assembly.

Aides said he will emphasize the need for states to promote peace and prosperity while upholding sovereignty and accountability as indispensable foundations of international order. The stress on sovereignty is seen as a signal of Mr. Trump’s pledge to more aggressively defend U.S. national interests against the more “globalist” foreign policy of Mr. Obama.

“He will urge all states to come together to address grave dangers that threaten us all. If nations meet these challenges, immense opportunity lies before us,” said White House National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, providing a preview for reporters late last week.

Later Tuesday, Mr. Trump will lunch with U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and meet separately with General Assembly President Miroslav Lajcak of Slovakia and the emir of Qatar.

The president will host the traditional diplomatic reception Tuesday evening.

Mr. Trump has sit-downs scheduled Wednesday with leaders of Jordan, the Palestinian Authority, Britain and Egypt. He also will host a working luncheon with African leaders, focusing on strengthening security and economic relationships.

The final day of the assembly Thursday will include meetings with leaders of Turkey, Afghanistan and Ukraine. The leaders of South Korea and Japan will join Mr. Trump for lunch, where North Korean nuclear weapon and long-range missile programs will be the main topic.

“The president will be very clear that putting extreme pressure on North Korea is very important,” said White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

But Mrs. Haley said Sunday that the crisis with Pyongyang may no longer be in the hands of the Security Council despite a series of increasingly tougher economic sanctions. The North tested ballistic missiles and a nuclear weapon in the face of international sanctions.

The U.S. ambassador said the U.N. Security Council has run out of options on containing North Korea’s nuclear program and the United States may have to turn over the matter to the Pentagon.

“We have pretty much exhausted all the things that we can do at the Security Council at this point,” Ms. Haley told CNN’s “State of the Union,” adding that the North Korea problem may now be one for the Pentagon to resolve.

Mr. Trump may also face some uncomfortable moments over his sharp criticism of the Iran nuclear deal. Administration officials are hinting strongly that Mr. Trump will seek to end or renegotiate the deal but will likely face resistance at a meeting with foreign ministers of the U.S. partners in the deal: Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany.

When asked Friday what Moscow’s message would be for Washington, Vasily Nebenzya, Russian ambassador to the U.N., said, “Stay in the [nuclear deal].”

• S.A. Miller can be reached at smiller@washingtontimes.com.

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