Rocket Man, America first and Iran: 6 key points from Trump's debut speech at UN General Assembly

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US President Donald Trump warned on Tuesday that the United States will be forced to 'totally destroy' North Korea unless Pyongyang backs down from its nuclear standoff, mocking North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as a 'rocket man' on a suicide mission.
US President Donald Trump departs the United Nations after his speech on Sept 19, 2017 in New York City. PHOTO: AFP

UNITED NATIONS, NEW YORK (REUTERS, NYTIMES, WASHINGTON POST) - US President Donald Trump on Tuesday (Sept 19) delivered his first address at the annual United Nations General Assembly.

Mr Trump's debut at the UNGA was closely watched, as it takes place amid a series of missile tests by North Korea and massive military exercises conducted by Russia with its ally Belarus that have Nato neighbours.

Observers were also looking for signs of how his administration would engage with the UN after he had criticised the organisation during his campaign as being bloated and ineffective.

Here are some of the key points from his 41-minute speech:

1. 'Rocket Man is on a suicide mission'

In his speech, Mr Trump issued his sternest warning yet to North Korea.

The US will be forced to "totally destroy" the North unless Pyongyang backs down from its nuclear challenge, he warned.

He accused North Korean leader Kim Jong Un of overseeing a regime that has starved its people, brutalised an imprisoned American college student who was returned home in a coma, and assassinated Mr Kim's older brother, a potential rival, with poison chemicals.

"If this is not twisted enough, now North Korea's reckless pursuit of missiles and nuclear weapons threatens the entire world," Mr Trump said.

"We have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea... Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for him and his regime," he warned, referring to the North Korean leader.

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He urged UN member states to work together to isolate the Kim regime until it ceases its "hostile" behaviour. "If the righteous many don't confront the wicked few, then evil will triumph," he added.

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

While Mr Trump thanked Russia and China for supporting recent UN sanctions on North Korea, he also took an indirect swipe at them for continuing to do business with Pyongyang.

"It is an outrage that some nations would not only trade with such a regime, but would (also) arm, supply and financially support a country that imperils the world," he said.

2. 'I will always put America first'

Mr Trump emphasised an "America first" agenda, saying the US would act alone if needed. While the US would "forever be a great friend to the world and especially to its allies", his primary responsibility was to Americans.

The US, he added, will no longer be taken advantage of in deals it makes with other countries.

"As President, I will always put America first, just like you as the leaders of your countries will always - and should always - put your countries first," he said.

"In foreign affairs we are renewing this founding principle of sovereignty."

3. US' contributions to UN

He said the United States carries an "unfair burden" with the resources it provides to the global organisation.

In his speech, Mr Trump pledged that his administration would support the UN in its goals of pursuing peace, but he was sharply critical of the organisation, and its member nations, for not living up to the promise of its founding in 1945.

"We do not expect diverse countries to share the same cultures, values or systems of government," he said. "But we do expect all nations to uphold their core sovereignty and respect the interests of their own people and rights of every other sovereign nation. This is the beautiful vision of this institution and the foundation for cooperation and success."

4. US working with allies in Middle East to 'crush' terrorists

Mr Trump said the US is working with its allies in the Middle East to "crush" terrorists.

He added that America "has achieved more against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in the last eight months" than in the years before combined.

He thanked Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon for hosting refugees and said the US is a "compassionate nation".

5. Iran nuclear deal an 'embarrassment'

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Mr Trump denounced the Iran nuclear deal as an "embarrassment", in the latest sign that he plans to tear up or renegotiate the landmark accord.

"Frankly, that deal is an embarrassment to the United States, and I don't think you've heard the last of it," he said. "Believe me. It is time for the entire world to join us in demanding that Iran's government end its pursuit of death and destruction."

Mr Trump has long portrayed Iran as a sponsor of terrorism and has suggested that the US may abandon the 2015 deal negotiated by the Obama administration and five other major powers that limited Iran's nuclear activities. So far, he has grudgingly accepted the nuclear agreement despite having described it as a disgrace.

He faces an Oct 15 deadline to inform Congress whether the US will continue to certify Iran's compliance with the international accord - a requirement from the president every 90 days.

The world's nuclear inspectors recently declared that inspections found no evidence that Iran is breaching the agreement. A meeting of the parties that negotiated the deal with Iran - Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the US - will take place on the sidelines of the General Assembly on Wednesday.

6. Venezuela's collapsing democracy

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Mr Trump called the collapsing situation in Venezuela "completely unacceptable" and said the US cannot stand by and watch.

He warned that the US was considering what further actions it can take.

He also called Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government a dictatorship, and said it "has inflicted terrible pain and suffering" and imposed a "failed ideology" on its people.

"The problem in Venezuela is not that socialism has been poorly implemented, but that socialism has been faithfully implemented," he said. "We are prepared to take further action if the government of Venezuela persists on its path to impose authoritarian rule on the Venezuelan people."

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