Big and bold: That’s how I’d characterize President Trump’s speech this week at the opening of the annual meeting of the United Nations General Assembly in New York City.
His address to the body’s 193 member countries expressed concern about a number of pressing international problems, from Afghanistan to terrorism to Ukraine to the South China Sea, but especially about North Korea and Iran.
The president didn’t mince words on Pyongyang, outlining its outrageous behavior from a self-inflicted famine to political repression to the recent, senseless death of an American college student (returned to the United States only after he had slipped into a coma).
The white-hot concern, of course, is North Korea’s development of ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons and the threat it poses not only to the United States, but to allies Japan and South Korea.
Trump was right to remind “Rocket Man” — his rather descriptive nickname for North Korean leader Kim Jong Un — again that we’ll defend ourselves and our interests from an attack.
Kim must fully understand that sending a nuclear missile our way will end badly for the Pyongyang regime, leaving us with “no choice but to totally destroy North Korea” — a sentiment expressed by previous presidents (including Barack Obama in a 2016 CBS interview).
The president was also skeptical of the Iranian nuclear deal — and rightfully so. The agreement has a litany of shortcomings that makes it less than ideal for containing the ayatollahs’ atomic aspirations.
Besides putting cash in Iran’s pockets for general mischief-making, the deal lasts only 10 years, allows Iran to continue some uranium-enriching centrifuge research and doesn’t restrict its ballistic missile development.
Those are big problems.
The other major matter is Iran’s behavior since the pact was inked. It envisioned that Tehran would moderate its roguish international behavior with the ending of economic sanctions.
That didn’t happen.
From its involvement in the civil wars in Syria and Yemen to its provocative actions in the Persian Gulf to its continued support of Hezbollah and Hamas, Iran is still a bad actor — and a serious threat to international security.
While he didn’t say that we’re deep-sixing the Iran deal, Trump certainly left the impression it was under consideration by calling it an “embarrassment.” The administration must certify the deal to Congress in October — and that, clearly, may not happen.
Trump also touched on some other important issues.
The president was right to call for much-needed reform and better performance at the United Nations (especially the Human Rights Council), making it worthy of the 22 percent of its budget funded by the U.S. — and the even higher percentage of its peacekeeping expenses that our own nation pays.
And who couldn’t cheer when Trump called out repression in Cuba and Venezuela? On Venezuela, he said the problem is “not that socialism has been poorly implemented, but that socialism has been faithfully implemented.”
Some of those at the UNGA — along with some here at home and across the world — didn’t like what they heard from Trump, expecting the usual highly-nuanced diplo-babble from the General Assembly dais.
But, considering today’s unprecedented global challenges and threats, what the world body really needed is a serious dose of straight talk and a clear call to action. Fortunately, that’s exactly what Trump gave it.
This piece originally appeared in the Boston Herald