Trump warns total destruction of North Korea if it does not abandon nuclear threats

Update 4.10pm: President Donald Trump, in a combative debut speech to the UN general assembly, threatened the total destruction of North Korea if it does not abandon its drive toward nuclear weapons.

Mr Trump, who has ramped up his rhetoric throughout the escalating crisis with North Korea, told the murmuring crowd at the UN that "it is far past time for the nations of the world to confront" Kim Jong Un and said Mr 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," Mr Trump said about the North Korean leader.

He said of the US: "If it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea."

President Donald Trump speaks during the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters. Picture: AP Photo/Seth Wenig

Mr Trump, who has previously warned of "fire and fury" if Pyongyang does not back down, claimed "no one has shown more contempt for other nations and for the wellbeing of their own people than the depraved regime in North Korea".

And he scolded nations that he said have enabled and traded with North Korea, seeming to slight China, though he did not mention it by name.

Elected on the nationalist slogan America First, Mr Trump argued that individual nations should act in their own self-interest, yet rally together when faced with a common threat.

In addition to North Korea, Mr Trump urged nations to join together to stop Iran's nuclear programme.

He declared the Iran nuclear deal an "embarrassment" for the United States.

He also condemned the "loser terrorists" who have committed violence across the globe.

Addressing the general assembly is a milestone moment for any president, but one particularly significant for Mr Trump, a relative newcomer to foreign policy who has at times rattled the international community with his unpredictability.

He has pulled the US out of multinational agreements, considered shrinking the US military footprint in the world and deployed bombastic language on North Korea that has been criticised by other world leaders.

Mr Trump frequently belittled the UN as a candidate and some within his White House believe the UN acts as a global bureaucracy that infringes on the sovereignty of individual countries.

But the president stood before world leaders and a global audience and declared that UN 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 Mr Trump, who assured the UN that the US would not abdicate its leadership position in the world but needed other countries to contribute more.

"The US 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."

World leaders, many of whom will be seeing Mr Trump in person for the first time, are bound to take the measure of the man and study his every word for clues on how he views the US role in the world and within the UN.

While running for office, Mr Trump had labelled the UN weak and incompetent.

He has suggested it was "not a friend" to the United States or democracy while deriding it as "a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time".

He thundered often about putting "America first", and has withdrawn from what he considered multilateral agreements that he found unfavourable to the United States, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.

He also announced his intention to withdraw from the Paris climate accord, which would leave the US one of only three countries outside the pact.

Aides have since suggested Mr Trump would be willing to renegotiate terms of the deal but European leaders have dismissed that approach.

Mr Trump has also frequently questioned the value of a robust American presence around the world.

When briefed on the government's diplomatic, military and intelligence posts, the new president would often cast doubt on the need for all the resources.

Some aides have suggested that Mr Trump employs "principled realism", making global decisions based on the best outcome for the United States.

The administration has also shied away from talk of nation-building or creating democracies through the use of the US military.

But Mr Trump has softened his rhetoric about the United Nations since taking office and cheered the recent Security Council resolution that approved new sanctions against North Korea.

- Associated Press

Update 3.45pm: Donald Trump has threatened to "totally destroy North Korea" if the US is forced to defend itself or allies against aggression in a strongly worded address to the general assembly of the United Nations.

Mr Trump, speaking in his home city of New York, also took aim at Iran in his speech at the world body's headquarters.

The US president described North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as a "rocket man on a suicide mission" following a series of weapons tests by the Pyongyang regime.

He also said the Iranian government was running an "economically depleted rogue state" whose chief export is violence.

Mr Trump signalled a stronger approach to Tehran, questioning the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran struck by his predecessor.

He said world leaders "cannot abide" by the agreement if it "provides cover" for Iran to eventually build its nuclear programme.

The US administration last week extended sanctions relief to Iran, avoiding imminent action that could implode the landmark agreement.

Update 2pm: Watch live coverage of the speeches, including Donald Trump's, at the  72nd United Nations General Assembly debate.

More than 100 world leaders, thousands of diplomats and advocates will convene in New York City from 19-25 September 2017. This year’s theme is “Focusing on people — striving for peace and a decent life for all on a sustainable planet”.

Earlier:  Formed in 1945, the United Nations General Assembly bills itself as the "chief deliberative, policy-making, and representative organ" of the global organisation.

The summit draws world leaders from all 193 member states and seeks to tackle issues like peace, security and development at the UN’s headquarters in New York.

In theory, it is the most egalitarian of the UN’s six main arms and operates under the principle of "one nation, one vote" on a litany of resolutions brought forward by different countries.

Decisions on the most important questions, like the admission of new members and approving the budget, require a two-thirds majority - while other motions need a simple majority.

All eyes will be on Donald Trump as he makes his debut address to the 72nd session of the Assembly today (2pm GMT) - a milestone for any US president.

Mr Trump, a frequent critic of the UN during his campaign for office, will use the speech to argue nations should act with self-interest, but work together against common enemies like North Korea.

In remarks to the world body on Monday, he criticised its bureaucracy and budgeting but pledged the US would be "partners in your work" in driving forward as an effective force for global stability.

Meanwhile, British PM Theresa May will hold one-on-one talks with a number of international leaders as part of her drive to promote "global Britain", as well as leading a session devoted to tackling the problem of modern slavery.

The Prime Minister will make her second address to the Assembly on Wednesday, having used last year’s speech to stress that Britain would remain global after Brexit.

Powers granted to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) under the UN Charter include;

:: Considering and approving the United Nations budget and establishing the financial assessments of member states;

:: Considering and making recommendations on the general principles of cooperation for maintaining international peace and security, including disarmament;

:: Making recommendations for the peaceful settlement of any situation that might impair friendly relations among countries.

It may also "take action in cases of a threat to the peace, breach of peace or act of aggression, when the Security Council has failed to act owing to the negative vote of a permanent member".

A new president is sworn in every year to preside over the forum - and this year it is Slovakian diplomat Miroslav Lajcak.

The Assembly meets intensively from September to December every year - and then from January as required until all issues on the agenda are addressed.

Regular sessions begin on the Tuesday of the third week of September and general debates with world leaders will run until September 25 this year.

Throughout its history, the Assembly has made political, economic, social and legal decisions "which have affected the lives of millions of people", the UN said, citing the Millennium Declaration as an example of its best work.

The declaration outlined commitment to freedom, equality, tolerance, solidarity, respect for nature and shared responsibility as six values fundamental to international relations in the 21st Century, the UN said.

- Press Association 


Most Read in World