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NEW YORK: US President Donald Trump addresses the 72nd Annual UN General Assembly on Tuesday.—AFP
NEW YORK: US President Donald Trump addresses the 72nd Annual UN General Assembly on Tuesday.—AFP

WASHINGTON: In his first address to the United Nations on Tuesday, US President Donald Trump threatened to totally destroy North Korea and hinted at the possibility of rescinding nuclear deal with Iran.

“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,” he said.

Referring to the nuclear deal that the Obama administration and five permanent members of the UN Security Council signed with Iran in 2015, Mr Trump said: “The Iran deal was one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into. Frankly, that deal is an embarrassment to the United States, and I don’t think you’ve heard the last of it. Believe me.”

Although Mr Trump has hinted at the possibility of cancelling the nuclear deal with Iran before as well, this marks the first time that he has used a world forum to say so. The deal removes some economic sanctions on Tehran in return for a pledge to give up nuclear weapons.

Also hints at planning to scrap nuclear deal with Iran

The US president accused North Korea of recklessly pursuing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, which he said “threatens the entire world with unthinkable loss of human life”.

In an indirect reference to China and Russia, which maintain economic and political ties with North Korea, the US president said: “It is an outrage that some nations would not only trade with such a regime, but would arm, supply and financially support a country that imperils the world with nuclear conflict.”

Urging North Korea’s backers to stop supporting it, he said: “No nation on Earth has an interest in seeing this band of criminals arm itself with nuclear weapons and missiles.”

Mr Trump borrowed a term — “rocket man” — from a popular song by Elton John to describe the North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un. “Rocket man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime. The United States is ready, willing and able, but hopefully this will not be necessary,” he said while threatening to destroy North Korea.

Instead, he urged the United Nations to persuade Pyongyang to abandon the dangerous pursuit. “That’s what the United Nations is all about. That’s what the United Nations is for. Let’s see how they do,” he said.

The Washington Post commented that Mr Trumps’ threat to North Korea was “extraordinary” even for Mr Trump. “Just to be clear: The president of the United States threatened to wipe a country of 25 million people off the map,” it wrote.

“Trump delivers forceful but highly unusual speech at annual gathering,” Los Angeles Times commented.

The dominant theme of Mr Trump’s speech could be summed up in one word: sovereignty. In a 42-minute speech, “sovereign” and its variations appeared 21 times.

He rejected the emphasis that Barack Obama and his other predecessors had put on international institutions and multiparty agreements. Mr Trump also made it clear that the US was no longer interested in bringing democracy to other nations or in exporting its values.

Iran was the most targeted nation in the speech after North Korea. Denouncing Iran as a ‘rogue nation’, he said: “It is time for the entire world to join us in demanding that Iran’s government end its pursuit of death and destruction.”

Although, international inspectors recently declared that they had no evidence to suggest Iran was breaching the agreement, Mr Trump insisted that it was.

On Wednesday, representatives of the nations that signed the deal with Iran — Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States — will meet on the sidelines of the General Assembly to review the agreement and chalk out a future course of action.

But Mr Trump warned the world that “the Iranian government masks a corrupt dictatorship behind the false guise of a democracy. It has turned a wealthy country with a rich history and culture into an economically depleted rogue state whose exports are violence, bloodshed and chaos.”

Published in Dawn, September 20th, 2017