US President Donald Trump has told the UN General Assembly that America would destroy North Korea if forced to defend itself or its allies.
In his debut speech, he mocked North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, saying: “Rocket man is on a suicide mission.”
North Korea has tested nuclear bombs and missiles in defiance of the UN.
Just before Mr Trump spoke, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres had urged statesmanship, saying: “We must not sleepwalk our way into war.”
The American leader also attacked Iran, saying it was a “corrupt dictatorship” which was intent on destabilising the Middle East.
He called on the government in Tehran to cease supporting terrorism and again criticised the Obama-era international agreement over Iran’s nuclear programme, which he called an embarrassment.
In other parts of his speech he:
said the US could “no longer be taken advantage of or enter one-sided deals”
said the crisis in Venezuela, which is led by a leftwing government hostile to the US, was “unacceptable” and the America could not “stand by and watch”
denounced socialism as an ideology, saying it had only brought “anguish and devastation and failure”
Washington has repeatedly warned North Korea over its weapons tests, which violate UN Security Council resolutions.
The crisis worsened last month when the North announced plans to test missiles around the US Pacific territory of Guam.
President Trump’s threat to “totally destroy” North Korea is implausible, according to Stewart Patrick, a senior fellow at the New York think tank the Council on Foreign Relations.
President Trump’s speech was at one and the same time an eloquent exposition of his doctrine of “America First” and some fulsome (and perhaps unexpected) praise for the United Nations as a body that can bring together these sovereign states to tackle the world’s problems.
In contrast to the focus on globalisation that has driven so much of foreign policy discussion since the 1990s, Mr Trump saw national sovereignty as the main pillar of the international system. There was a nod to the old axis of evil theme.
He opposed “the righteous many” to “the wicked few”, his rogues’ gallery taking in a predictable cast of North Korea, Iran and Venezuela.