U.S. President Donald Trump escalated his threats against North Korea over its nuclear challenge on Tuesday, threatening to “totally destroy’’ the country of 26 million people and mocking its leader, Kim Jong Un, as a “rocket man.’’
In a hard-edged speech to the UN General Assembly, Trump offered a grim portrait of a world in peril, adopted a more confrontational approach to solving global challenges from Iran to Venezuela, and gave an unabashed defense of U.S. sovereignty.
“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,’’ Trump told the 193-member world body, sticking closely to a script.
Trump, as loud, startled murmurs filled the hall, described Kim in an acid tone, saying, “rocket man is on a suicide mission for himself and his regime.’’
His remarks rattled the leaders gathered in the green-marbled UN General Assembly hall, where minutes earlier UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appealed for statesmanship, adding that they must not sleepwalk their way into war.
Trump’s most direct military threat to attack North Korea, in his debut appearance at the General Assembly, was his latest expression of concern about Pyongyang’s repeated launching of ballistic missiles over Japan and underground nuclear tests.
His advisers say he is concerned about North Korea’s advances in missile technology and the few means available for a peaceful response without China’s help.
One man in the audience covered his face with his hands shortly after Trump made his “totally destroy’’ comment.
Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom told newsmen that it was the wrong speech, at the wrong time, to the wrong audience.
“North Korea’s mission to the UN did not immediately respond to a request for comment,’’ the North Korean UN mission said.