President Donald Trump on Tuesday delivered a toughly worded defense of his “America first” foreign policy in his inaugural address to the United Nations and threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea if necessary. The president, speaking at the United Nations’ hallowed green-marble rostrum, also excoriated the international nuclear deal with Iran as an “embarrassment” and strongly hinted that his administration would soon back out, against the wishes of many nations in the room. The defiant and pugilistic speech put the General Assembly hall of more than 150 delegations on notice that the United States, under Trump’s leadership, is willing to pursue an unpopular and unpredictable course to protect its interests across the globe.
Trump called on world leaders to rally in the fight to defeat murderous regimes and “loser terrorists,” and he derisively referred to North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, who oversees an expanding nuclear arsenal, as “Rocket Man.” Reflecting on the United Nations charter of promoting world peace, the president asserted to the room full of diplomats: “Major portions of the world are in conflict, and some, in fact, are going to hell.” “To put it simply,” Trump declared, “we meet at a time of both of immense promise and great peril. It is entirely up to us whether we lift the world to new heights or let it fall into a valley of disrepair.” Most of the president’s views were well known before he arrived at the annual U.N. gathering. But his 42-minute speech, delivered in a combative tone rare for an American leader, put them in stark relief at a time of widespread anxiety among U.S. allies and partners over the nation’s traditional role of world leader.