Trump warns North Korea during UN speech, says some countries going "to hell"

Trump offers the United Nations a twist on George W. Bush’s axis of evil in off-the-rails address

By Sophia Tesfaye

Senior Politics Editor

Published September 19, 2017 11:56AM (EDT)

Donald Trump speaks at the 72nd United Nations General Assembly (Getty/Spencer Platt)
Donald Trump speaks at the 72nd United Nations General Assembly (Getty/Spencer Platt)

Donald Trump often attacked the United Nations as unnecessary and ineffective while campaigning. In his first presidential address before the international organization’s General Assembly on Tuesday, Presidential Trump echoed his campaign-style bluster in a shockingly caustic speech that called out specific nations, harkening back to George W. Bush’s infamous axis of evil speech.

Touting his “America First” message before the assembled officials from around the world, Trump kicked off his address by boasting about the booming stock market and promoting his own Trump Tower, located across the street from the UN headquarters.

“In America, we do not seek to impose our way of life on anything, but rather to let it shine as an example for everyone to watch,” he declared to more than 150 international delegations. “It is up to us whether we will lift the world to new heights or let it fall into a valley of disrepair.”

The true question for the United Nations, Trump asserted, is, "Are we still patriots?"

He went on to offer the most direct rebuke of his international enemies, saying, “The scourge of our planet is a group of rogue regimes.”

North Korea

Trump doubled down on a nickname he gave North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un earlier in the week to joke that the “Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and his regime.” Leaving little room for interpretation, Trump argued, “No one has shown more contempt for other nations and for the well-being of their own people than the depraved regime in North Korea.”

The BBC reported that a collective gasp could be heard in the UN media center when Trump then declared that "we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea [if they don’t change].”


The second nation set for public scorn by Trump was the socialist regime of Venezuela's Nicolás Maduro.

"Wherever true socialism or communism has been adopted it has delivered anguish, devastation and failure," Trump told the global audience. "We are prepared to take further action if the government of Venezuela persists" on its authoritarian path.

The president said that the U.S. aims to help the Latin American nation "regain their freedom, recover their country and restore their democracy."


Trump then took aim at Tehran, whose leaders sat before him, like those from both North Korea and Venezuela.

“It is time to crush the loser terrorist,” Trump said, take a direct shot at what he said was Iran’s support for Hezbollah.

“It is time for the entire world to join us in demanding that Iran end its pursuit of death and destruction,” Trump said. “It is far past time for the nations of the world to confront another reckless regime, one that speaks openly of mass murder, vowing ‘death to America,’ destruction to Israel, and ruin to many nations and leaders in this room,” Trump said, accusing Iran of hiding behind a “false guise of a democracy.”

As it has become a key point of the developing Trump doctrine, the president repeated his vow to erase the legacy of his predecessor — pointing to the multilateral Iran nuclear agreement negotiated by Barack Obama’s administration.   

“The Iran deal was one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into,” Trump said. “Frankly, that deal is an embarrassment to the United States and I don’t think you have heard the last of it, believe me.”

Trump’s speech was so over-the-top in its saber-rattling that George W. Bush’s former UN advisor John Bolton praised it on Fox News as the best speech of Trump’s presidency. Ambassador Bolton was followed on the right-wing network by Republican Rep Ron DeSantis of Florida who called Trump’s address a “tour de force.”

"This was the international version of draining the swamp,” DeSantis applauded.

By Sophia Tesfaye

Sophia Tesfaye is Salon's senior editor for news and politics, and resides in Washington, D.C. You can find her on Twitter at @SophiaTesfaye.

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Donald Trump International Relations Iran North Korea Trump At Un Unga United Nations Venezeula