TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty
September 19, 2017 11:13 AM

President Trump threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea in his first speech to the United Nations, but said that the international body could still prevent war.

Speaking Tuesday morning at the General Assembly, Trump said that “Rocket Man” — his nickname for North Korean leader Kim Jong-un — was putting his entire country at risk with recent missile and nuclear weapon tests.

“We will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea,” he said. “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.”

The official White House press pool report described the reaction of United Nations diplomats in the room: “The applause for POTUS when he was introduced was muted at best and most in the room listened attentively but stone faced, many of them with earphones providing translation. At the end, there was fuller, polite applause, though not rousing or enthusiastic.”

Trump painted a dark portrait of the state of the world in his speech, but argued that self-interested international cooperation could still triumph. He argued that terrorism, illegal drugs, human trafficking, rogue regimes and authoritarian governments are all threats to international peace.

“Terrorists and extremists have gathered strength and spread to every region of the planet,” he told the assembled leaders at the U.N.’s New York headquarters. “Rogue regimes represented in this body not only support terror but threaten other nations and their own people with the most destructive weapons known to humanity. Authority and authorization powers seek to collapse the values, the systems and alliances that prevented conflict and tilted the world toward freedom since World War II. International criminal networks traffic drugs, weapons, and people.”

But Trump argued that his America First approach to foreign policy could help countries work together.

“As president of the United States, I will always put America First, just like you, the leaders of your countries will always and should always put your country first,” he said. “All responsible leaders have an obligation to serve their own citizens and the nation-state remains the best vehicle for elevating the human condition.”

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