Trump says US may have to 'destroy' North Korea

US President Donald Trump said yesterday that the United States will be forced to “totally destroy” North Korea unless Pyongyang backs down from its nuclear challenge.

US President Donald Trump said yesterday that the United States will be forced to “totally destroy” North Korea unless Pyongyang backs down from its nuclear challenge, mocking North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as a “rocket man” on a suicide mission.

Loud murmurs filled the green-marbled UN General Assembly hall when Trump issued his sternest warning yet to North Korea, whose ballistic missile launches and nuclear tests have rattled the globe.

Unless North Korea backs down, he said, “we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.”

He added: “Rocket man is on a suicide mission for himself and his regime.”

A junior North Korean diplomat remained in the delegation’s front-row seat for Trump’s speech, the North Korean UN mission said.

In his first appearance at the annual gathering of world leaders, Trump urged United Nations member states to work together to isolate the Kim government until it ceases its “hostile” behavior.

He said North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles “threatens the entire world with unthinkable cost of human life.”

Turning to Iran, Trump called the 2015 nuclear deal negotiated by his predecessor Barack Obama an embarrassment and hinted that he may not recertify the agreement when it comes up for a mid-October deadline.

“I don’t think you’ve heard the last of it,” he said.

He called Iran an “economically depleted rogue state” that exports violence.

The speech marked his latest attempt to lay out his America First vision for a US foreign policy aimed at downgrading global bureaucracies, basing alliances on shared interests, and steering Washington away from nation-building exercises abroad.

Trump, who entered the White House eight months ago, told world leaders at the global body that the United States does not seek to impose its will on other nations and will respect other countries’ sovereignty.

“I will defend America’s interests above all else,” he said. “But in fulfilling our obligations to other nations we also realize it’s in everyone’s interest to seek a future where all nations can be sovereign, prosperous and secure.”

Reading carefully from a script, Trump said the US military would soon be the strongest it has ever been.

The Senate has overwhelmingly approved a sweeping defense policy bill that would pump US$700 billion into the military, putting the US armed forces on track for a budget greater than at any time during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Senators passed the legislation by an 89-8 vote on Monday. The measure authorizes US$700 billion in military spending for the budget year that begins on October 1, expands US missile defenses in response to North Korea’s growing hostility and refuses to allow excess military bases to be closed.

The 1,215-page measure defies a number of White House objections, but Trump hasn’t threatened to veto it. 

The bill helps him honor a pledge to rebuild an American military that he said had become depleted on Obama’s watch.

China, Russia call for peaceful solution

The Chinese and Russian foreign ministers called for a peaceful end to the “vicious cycle” on the Korean Peninsula as they met in New York for the UN General Assembly.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov urged all parties to seek a “peaceful resolution” to the current stand-off with Pyongyang over its nuclear weapons program, the Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement.

Threatening action or rhetoric cannot help resolve the situation, the ministry said, after US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis hinted about the existence of military options.

Asked if there were any military options the United States could take with North Korea that would not put Seoul at grave risk, Mattis had said there were, but declined to give details.

Seoul is within artillery range of North Korea, which is also believed to have a sizable chemical and biological arsenal beyond nuclear and conventional weapons.

“The Korean Peninsula nuclear problem must be solved through peaceful means,” the ministry quoted Wang as saying yesterday, adding that “the current deepening vicious cycle must be broken.”

“Restoring peace talks is also a necessary step to carrying out the UN Security Council’s resolution,” he said.

Lavrov said Russia’s position on the issue is “completely identical” to China’s.

Russia has joined China’s call for a “dual-track” approach in which North Korea suspends its weapons program in return for the US and South Korea halting military drills in the region.

North Korea has repeatedly defied the UN to conduct nuclear and missile tests.

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