Donald Trump has said the United States will “totally destroy” North Korea if it is threatened by the regime.
The US President described Pyongyang’s leader Kim Jong Un as a “rocket man on a suicide mission for himself and his regime” in his sternest warning yet to North Korea.
Speaking at the UN General Assembly in New York for the first time, Mr Trump said: “The United States is ready, willing and able (to act), but hopefully this will not be necessary.”
The President also called on member states to work together to isolate Mr Kim until he stops his “hostile” actions, a reference to a series of recent ballistic missile launches and nuclear tests by Pyongyang.
In what will be seen as a thinly veiled criticism of China, North Korea’s major trading partner, Mr Trump 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.”
His comments visibly rattled some of the world leaders gathered before him, and one man in the audience was seen covering his face with his hands.
Shortly before Mr Trump’s combative address, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had appealed for statesmanship when it comes to North Korea, warning: “We must not sleepwalk our way into war.”
North Korea was not only the country to draw Mr Trump’s ire, with the President also taking aim at Iran.
He denounced the West’s nuclear deal with Tehran as an “embarrassment” – the latest sign Mr Trump wants to rip up or renegotiate the landmark 2015 accord.
He said the Iranian government was running an “economically depleted rogue state” whose prime export is violence.
Mr Trump said world leaders “cannot abide” by the nuclear accord if it “provides cover” for Iran to eventually build its nuclear programme.
Iran’s foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was scathing in his response, labelling Mr Trump’s remarks “shameless” and “ignorant”.
There were strong words on Venezuela, with the US President saying the country’s socialist government had brought the once-thriving state to the “brink of collapse” – a situation Mr Trump described as “completely unacceptable”.
He said Washington had already imposed tough sanctions on the government and was considering what further action can be taken.
Despite the forceful rhetoric, Mr Trump told world leaders the US does not seek to impose its will on other countries and will respect the sovereignty of other nations.
“I will defend America’s interests above all else,” Mr Trump said, echoing his campaign trail rhetoric promising an “America first” approach to the presidency.
“But in fulfilling our obligations to other nations we also realise it’s in everyone’s interest to seek a future where all nations can be sovereign, prosperous and secure,” he added.