Trump to UNGA: We will “totally destroy” North Korea if you don’t straighten out “Rocket Man”
Donald Trump intended to use his speech at the UN General Assembly to reframe US foreign policy around the philosophy of “principled realism.” Turtle Bay may not have been prepared for just how real it was going to get. After spending the first part of his speech outlining the critical role of national sovereignty to peace and prosperity, Trump launched a roaring attack on North Korea and its dictator, Kim Jong-un. Calling him “Rocket Man,” Trump pledged to “totally destroy” the DPRK if the UN does not succeed in ending the regime’s threat to the US:
Trump also had a pointed message for Iran as well. After noting that the Iranian people are the longest-suffering victims of the regime in Tehran, Trump strongly suggested that the nuclear-weapons deal of 2015 would not last much longer. He also demanded that Iran release Americans it currently detains, as well as other foreign nationals, and that the UN demand an end to Iran’s “pursuit of death and destruction”:
Give Trump credit for bringing his authentic self to the United Nations, at the very least. If his supporters worried about the supposed “globalists” on his staff watering down Trump’s approach on foreign policy, the president dispelled all of those worries in his 40-minute address. He made it clear that US policy would take a sharp turn towards self-interest and put nations on notice over trade. More importantly, Trump expressed clear, explicit, and unmistakable warnings about American action to explicit threats, including a passionate demand for united action against “radical Islamic terrorism,” a phrase he deliberately drew out for emphasis.
Trump also derided a shift toward socialism in world politics, asserting that a century of history showed that its end result is always “great despair” and destruction. He took pointed aim at the Maduro government in Venezuela, noting the targeted sanctions on its leaders. “The problem in Venezuela is not that socialism has been poorly implemented,” Trump said in perhaps the most memorable line of the speech, “but that socialism has been faithfully implemented.” The comment drew nervous laughs from the General Assembly and belated applause, but make no mistake — Trump scored a direct hit with that line.
The UN may not be used to hearing an American president speak quite this bluntly and directly about other member states, and it remains to be seen how they will react to it. (Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted out immediately that he’d never heard a UN speech this brave or sharp, but don’t expect that to be the universal reaction.) Trump at least has as much invested in the reaction at home, though, and this speech should pay off handsomely with his supporters. It emphasizes Trump’s election-campaign themes from immigration to counterterrorism, and that will perhaps recast expectations that subordinates are driving overall policy decisions.
Here’s the speech in its entirety, courtesy of CBC News: