UNITED NATIONS (CN) — Audible gasps coursed through the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday as U.S. President Donald Trump used his first address before the international peacekeeping body to threaten North Korea with annihilation.
“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 announced from the marble podium.
Pausing as the crowd of heads of state and diplomats registered shock, Trump addressed North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un with the nickname he recently coined for him.
“Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime,” the president added.
Representatives of North Korea quickly exited the room as Trump delivered the remarks, taking a bellicose turn on a morning dedicated to optimism and international cooperation.
The three speakers before Trump – U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, President of the General Assembly Miroslav Lajcak and Brazilian President Michel Temer – focused their speeches on taking responsibility for climate change, helping the plight of the world’s refugees and embracing multilateralism as a solution to the world’s problems.
“The use of nuclear weapons should be unthinkable,” Guterres said. “Even the threat of their use shouldn’t be condoned."
Trump meanwhile ignored the climate crisis entirely, hammering themes of national sovereignty and expressing the desire to unilaterally exit a nuclear weapons agreement.
Clocking in at three times the recommended U.N. floor time, Trump opened his 10 a.m. address with perfunctory comments about the victims of hurricanes followed by his usual boasts about last year’s election outcome, stock market raises and high employment figures.
Trump then promised to boost spending to a U.S. military that is already larger than 10 of its nearest competitors.
“Our military will soon be the strongest it has ever been,” he said.
Directly before his speech, Brazil’s Temer spoke of his country’s commitment to sign a landmark treaty to ban nuclear weapons, and implored other nations to work together toward their elimination.
“We need more multilateralism and dialogue – never less,” he said. “We certainly need more of the United Nations – and a United Nations that is increasingly legitimate and effective.”
Trump took another tack, offering fellow member states an arch-nationalist framework.
“As President of the United States, 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 continued.
For Trump, the nationalist’s role in an international body was not a contradiction in terms.
“The true question for the United Nations today, for people all over the world who hope for better lives for themselves and their children, is a basic one: Are we still patriots? Do we love our nations enough to protect their sovereignty and to take ownership of their futures? Do we revere them enough to defend their interests, preserve their cultures, and ensure a peaceful world for their citizens?”
Nikki Haley, whom Trump installed as America’s permanent representative to the United Nations, predicted last week that Trump’s speech would consist of tough love.
“I personally think he slaps the right people, he hugs the right people, and he comes out with the U.S. being very strong in the end,” she said.