UNITED NATIONS – 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
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.
“If [the US] is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea,” Mr Trump said.
President Trump’s threat to “totally destroy” North Korea is implausible, according to Stewart Patrick, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, a New York think tank.
“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.