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Bellicose Trump threatens to 'destroy' N.Korea in UN address

US President Donald Trump delivered his maiden address to the UN General Assembly in New York on Tuesday
Jewel SAMAD (AFP)
'Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime,' Trump said.

President Donald Trump warned leaders gathered at the UN General Assembly on Tuesday that the United States may have to destroy North Korea if Kim Jong-Un's nuclear-armed regime threatens its neighbors.

"The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.

"Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime," he said, using his new nickname for the North Korean leader.

"The United States is ready, willing and able, but hopefully this will not be necessary."

Appearing for the first time before the 193-member organization that emerged from the ashes of World War II, Trump boasted of America's military strength and berated US foes in Pyongyang, Tehran, Venezuela, Syria and Cuba.

In a veiled criticism of China and Russia, who were barely mentioned in the rest of the speech, Trump said any trade with North Korea was morally questionable.

Trump pilloried Iran as a corrupt "rogue state" and threatened to rip up the landmark international deal struck in 2015 to curb Tehran's nuclear program.

Jewel SAMAD (AFP)

- 'America's interests' -

The packed General Assembly hall greeted Trump's tough rhetoric and calls for individual nation states -- rather than supranational bodies -- to form the basis of the global order with periods of silence punctuated by polite applause during his 42 minutes of remarks.

Trump did not back away from his populist "America First" campaign rhetoric, but instead suggested it should be an example to other UN members.

"Our respect for sovereignty is also a call for action. All people deserve a government that cares for their safety, their interests."

"As long as I hold this office, I will defend America's interests above all else, but in fulfilling our obligations to our nations, we also realize that it's in everyone's interests to seek the future where all nations can be sovereign, prosperous and secure," he said. 

After decades in which America has led the drive toward a global rules-based order, Trump indicated his foreign policy would define the national interest more narrowly.  

"For too long the American people were told that mammoth, multinational trade deals, unaccountable international tribunals and powerful global bureaucracies were the best way to promote their success," Trump said.

"But as those promises flowed, millions of jobs vanished and thousands of factories disappeared."

TIMOTHY A. CLARY (AFP)

The speech provoked strong responses almost immediately -- drawing praise from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu although against expectations Trump did not mention the Middle East Peace peace process, which he has promised to pursue.

"In over 30 years in my experience with the UN, I never heard a bolder or more courageous speech," said Netanyahu.

"President Trump spoke the truth about the great dangers facing our world and issued a powerful call to confront them in order to ensure the future of humanity," he said in a statement.

At home in the United States however, Trump was pilloried by among others veteran Democratic Senator Diane Feinstein.

"The goals of the United Nations are to foster peace and promote global cooperation," she said. "Today, the president used it as a stage to threaten war."

"He aims to unify the world through tactics of intimidation, but in reality he only further isolates the United States," she said.

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