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President Donald Trump issued a harsh warning on Tuesday at the U.N. General Assembly to nuclear-armed North Korea and the countries doing business with "this band of criminals."
"The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself and its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea," Trump said in his first address to the General Assembly.
"Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime. The United States is ready, willing and able, but hopefully this will not be necessary," he said.
In addition to North Korea, the president specifically targeted what he called a "small group of rogue regimes" — including Iran and Syria — that pose threats around the globe. Trump contended that "Rocket Man" — his recently coined nickname for North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un — threatens an "unthinkable loss of human life" by pursuing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.
"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. No nation on Earth has an interest in seeing this band of criminals arm itself with nuclear weapons and missiles," he said, apparently referencing Pyongyang's major trading partner, China, among others.
Pyongyang has tested ballistic missiles and an apparent hydrogen bomb in recent weeks in the face of international economic sanctions and warnings.
The United Nations is crucial to applying the diplomatic pressure that the United States and its allies hope they can apply to deter North Korean aggression. Last week, the U.N. Security Council unanimously passed fresh measures to punish Pyongyang economically, with the support of China and Russia.
So far, the sanctions — which U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley said "strangled" North Korea's economy — have not deterred the regime from further provocations, including firing two missiles over Japan. Trump has repeatedly pressed China, North Korea's only major ally, to do more to force Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear ambitions.
"I want to thank China and Russia for joining the vote to impose sanctions along with all of the other members of the Security Council. ... But we must do much more," Trump said. "It is time for all nations to work together to isolate the Kim regime until it ceases its hostile behavior."
Trump has repeatedly said he does not want to take military action in North Korea. But on Tuesday as in previous weeks, he warned of North Korea's destruction if it threatens the U.S. or its allies.
"It is time for North Korea to realize that the denuclearization is its only acceptable future," he said.
Trump's combative rhetoric went well beyond North Korea. He also called Iran a "reckless regime" whose chief exports are "violence, bloodshed and chaos."
Trump said the Iran nuclear deal struck by the Obama administration was "one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into."
"I don't think you've heard the last of it, believe me," he added.
Trump said he is working to "crush the loser terrorists" and punish countries who help to finance them.
Larger themes in Trump's speech included the importance of national sovereignty and the U.N.'s underperformance in meeting its goals. He also lamented the U.S. financial commitments to the international organization.
Trump has repeatedly called for "reform" at the U.N. and other international organizations, arguing they need to do more with the money they receive.