NEW YORK – US President Donald Trump has told the UN General Assembly that America would destroy North Korea if forced to defend itself or its allies.
In his debut speech, he mocked North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, saying: “Rocket man is on a suicide mission.”
North Korea has tested nuclear bombs and missiles in defiance of the UN.
Just before Mr Trump spoke, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres had urged statesmanship, saying: “We must not sleepwalk our way into war.”
The American leader also attacked Iran, saying it was a “corrupt dictatorship” intent on destabilising the Middle East.
He called on the government in Tehran to cease supporting terrorism and again criticised the Obama-era international agreement over Iran’s nuclear programme, which he called an embarrassment.
In his own debut speech, French President Emmanuel Macron strongly defended the Paris climate accord, signed in the same room in New York two years ago and rejected in June by Mr Trump, to widespread international dismay.
The General Assembly, which continues until Monday, is an annual event, bringing together leaders of the UN’s 193 member states.
In other parts of Mr Trump’s speech he:
- said the US could “no longer be taken advantage of or enter one-sided deals”
- said the crisis in Venezuela, which is led by a leftwing government hostile to the US, was “unacceptable” and America could not “stand by and watch”
- denounced socialism as an ideology, saying it had only brought “anguish and devastation and failure”
- condemned “uncontrolled migration” but insisted America was a “compassionate nation” which had spent billions of dollars on helping refugees return to their home countries
‘No choice but to totally destroy’
Washington has repeatedly warned North Korea over its weapons tests, which violate UN Security Council resolutions.
The crisis worsened last month when the North announced plans to test missiles around the US Pacific territory of Guam.
“I think the folks in the Pentagon when they look at military options are just aghast at the potential loss of life that could occur with at a minimum hundreds of thousands of South Koreans killed in Seoul,” he told the BBC.
The General Assembly was opened by Mr Guterres, who said that millions of people were living in dread as a result of North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests.
“The use of nuclear weapons should be unthinkable,” he said. “But today global anxieties about nuclear weapons are at the highest level since the end of the Cold War.”
The former head of the UN refugee agency also spoke of being “pained to see the way refugees and migrants have been stereotyped and scapegoated – and to see political figures stoke resentment in search of electoral gain”.
According to Reuters news agency, when Mr Trump made his remarks about destroying North Korea, one man in the audience covered his face with his hands, while Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom crossed her arms.
Loud, startled murmurs filled the hall, according to the agency.
In his speech, President Macron said climate change was starting to take revenge on man, and extreme weather events would erase the differences between rich and poor countries.
He promised an extra €5bn (RM25.13 billion) of French investment to fight climate change.
The French leader also defended the nuclear deal with Iran. “Renouncing it would be a grave error,” he said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sided with Mr Trump in his speech, saying the deal with Iran should be amended or scrapped altogether, and warned against the spread of Iranian influence in the Middle East.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan used his speech to urge the Iraqi government to stop the Kurdistan Regional Government holding a referendum on independence on 25 September. -BBC