In his first speech to the United Nations, President Trump said Tuesday that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is “on a suicide mission” with his development of a nuclear arsenal and ballistic missiles.
“Rocket man is on a suicide mission for himself and his regime,” Mr. Trump told the U.N. General Assembly, referring to a name he began using for Mr. Kim in a tweet Sunday. He added that North Korea’s “reckless” pursuit of nuclear missiles “threatens the entire world with unthinkable loss of human life.”
“The United States has great strength and patience,” Mr. Trump said. “But if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.”
Mr. Trump added, “The United States is ready, willing and able, but hopefully this will not be necessary.”
A senior Democratic lawmaker, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, criticized Mr. Trump for using the annual U.N. event “as a stage to threaten war.”
“Trump’s bombastic threat to destroy North Korea and his refusal to present any positive pathways forward on the many global challenges we face are severe disappointments,” she said. “He aims to unify the world through tactics of intimidation, but in reality he only further isolates the United States.”
Sen. David Perdue, Georgia Republican and a member of the Armed Services Committee, said he is “glad” that Mr. Trump and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley are getting more aggressive with the U.N. to get better results.
“The world is more dangerous than any time in my lifetime,” Mr. Perdue said. “President Trump sent the message that all sovereign nations must come together in a united effort to counter North Korea’s reckless behavior and the growing threats from Iran’s continued support of terrorist groups and human rights abuses.”
North Korea has posed the most significant national-security test of Mr. Trump’s first eight months in office, launching multiple tests of intercontinental ballistic missiles in violation of U.N. resolutions, testing a hydrogen bomb and threatening to attack the U.S. territory of Guam in the South Pacific.
The Trump administration has lobbied China to put more pressure on North Korea, and secured new U.N. sanctions against Pyongyang, but none of those actions has changed North Korea’s behavior.
Mr. Trump said the U.N. may be the best solution to denuclearizing North Korea, saying it’s time “for North Korea to realize that denuclearization is its only acceptable future.”
“That’s what the United Nations is for,” Mr. Trump said. “Let’s see how they do.”
As expected, Mr. Trump also called out Iran for its sponsorship of terrorism, and warned again that he is leaning toward pulling out of the Iranian nuclear deal.
“That deal is an embarrassment to the United States, and I don’t think you’ve heard the last of it,” Mr. Trump said.
Mr. Trump said the world must demand that Iran cease its pursuit of “death and destruction,” and he accused the government in Tehran of ignoring the more peaceful will of its citizens.
“The Iranian government masks a corrupt dictatorship behind the false guise of democracy,” the president said.
Matt Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, praised Mr. Trump for using the speech to confront “the reckless nuclear aspirations of Iran and North Korea, to oppose the brutal regime of Syria, and to combat radical Islamic terrorism at home and abroad.”
“The president was strong in his condemnation of Iran as a corrupt dictatorship, economically depleted, a destabilizing force in the Middle East, and a chief exporter of violence and terror,” Mr. Brooks said. “Today’s speech was a strong affirmation of American leadership on the world stage, something that has been missing during the last eight years.”
After criticizing the U.N. during his campaign as an ineffective club, Mr. Trump faced expectations among diplomats that he would tone down his “America First” rhetoric in his first major address to the world body. But the president gave an unapologetic defense of his foreign policy, and said other nations should also protect their sovereignty.
“As president, I will always put America first,” Mr. Trump said. “Just like you, as the leaders of your countries, will always and should always put your countries first.”
He said the U.N’s 193 member-nations need to work together “in close harmony,” but warned that the U.S. won’t be played for a fool on the world stage while it funds nearly a quarter of the U.N. budget.
“We can no longer be taken advantage of, or be taken into a one-sided deal where the United States gets nothing in return,” Mr. Trump said.
He began his speech by reminding the world of the growing military and economic power of the U.S. under his leadership.
“It has just been announced, we will be spending almost $700 billion on our military and defense,” the president said. “Our military will soon be the strongest it has ever been.”
The president also blasted the socialist regime of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, saying he is ruining the once-prosperous South American nation.
“The problem in Venezuela is not that socialism has been poorly implemented, but that socialism has been faithfully implemented,” Mr. Trump said, calling socialism a “discredited ideology.”