Donald Trump has used his first address to the UN General Assembly to make clear that the US may have no choice but to “totally destroy” North Korea.
With North Korean diplomats sitting just yards from him, Mr Trump said he will have no option to resort to such actions if Pyongyang does not halt the development of its nuclear weapons programme.
In perhaps the most striking piece of sabre-rattling yet, Mr Trump said that unless the regime of leader Kim Jong-un backed down, “we will have no choice than to totally destroy North Korea”.
In a reference to Mr Kim and a tweet he had sent at the weekend, the US President claimed the North Korean leader appeared to determined to choose a path of self-destruction.
“Rocket man is on a suicide mission for himself and his regime,” he said.
He said North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles “threatens the entire world with unthinkable cost of human life.”
In what may have been a veiled prod at China, the North’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.”
In a speech that appeared to be aimed as much at middle America as at the world leaders listening to him, Mr Trump spent much of his focus on the issue of North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme – something his predecessor, Barack Obama, warned would be likely to be his toughest foreign policy challenge.
He said Pyongyang’s increased testing of intercontinental missiles and nuclear payloads, “threatens the entire world with unthinkable loss of life”.
“If the righteous many don’t confront the wicked few, then evil will triumph,” he said as he called the Kim regime “depraved” and detailed several egregious human rights violations including the death of 22-year-old American college student Otto Warmbier.
Shortly before Trump’s speech, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres appealed from the General Assembly lectern for statesmanship to avoid war with North Korea.
“We must not sleepwalk our way into war,” said Guterres, the former prime minister of Portugal.