In his address to South Korea’s National Assembly, Trump highlighted the need to end Pyongyang’s nuclear program, saying “the time for excuses is over” and that he sought “peace through strength.”
Rather than laying direct threats against North Korea as he did at the UN General Assembly in September, Trump concentrated more on rallying the international community, and hinting at bigger roles by Pyongyang’s allies China and Russia. In his address to the UN, Trump referred to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un as “Rocket Man” and warned that the US could be pushed to “totally destroy” North Korea.
“The weapons you are acquiring are not making you safer. They are putting your regime in grave danger. Every step you take down this dark path increases the peril you face,” Trump said, referring to Kim directly.
“North Korea is not the paradise your grandfather envisioned. It is a hell that no person deserves.”
He went on to say that “path to a much better future” remains open for Kim, and that the path begins with “complete, verifiable, and total denuclearization,” and end to Pyongyang’s missile program.
Saying “America does not seek conflict or confrontation. But we will never run from it,” Trump warned that the US and its allies would not be coerced.
“We will not permit America or our allies to be blackmailed or attacked. We will not allow American cities to be threatened with destruction,” he said. Adding that the atrocities of war will not be allowed to be repeated on the Korean Peninsula, Trump called on the international community to bear down on the Kim Jong-un regime.
“All responsible nations must join forces to isolate the brutal regime of North Korea, to deny it and any form, any form of it, you cannot support, you cannot supply, you cannot accept,” he said.
“We call on every nation, including China and Russia, to fully implement UN Security Council resolutions, downgrade diplomatic relations with the regime, and sever all ties of trade and technology. It is our responsibility and our duty to confront this danger together, because the longer we wait, the greater the danger grows and the fewer the options become.”
While Seoul and Washington had sought a complete ban on fuel exports to North Korea, the most recent UN Security Council resolution fell short of a full embargo due to opposition from China and Russia.
The outspoken US leader, however, did not miss the opportunity to hint that more active retribution could be in store for North Korea.
Citing North Korea’s violations of international agreements, and attacks against South Korean and US over the decades, Trump implied that his administration’s response to such developments would be different.
“The regime has interpreted America’s past restraint as weakness. This would be a fatal miscalculation,” Trump said.
“This is a very different administration than the United States has had in the past. Today I hope I speak not only for our countries, but for all civilized nations when I say to the North: Do not underestimate us. And do not try us.”
Trump said that North Korea was seeking conflict outside its borders in an attempt to cover its failures at home, citing the death of Otto Warmbier, abductions of foreign nationals and assassination attempts at South Korean leaders.
Warmbier, a US university student, was detained in North Korea for 17 months before he was released in June this year. Warmbier was released in critical medical condition, and died within days of arriving in the US. North Korea has denied allegations of mistreatment.
Trump dedicated much of the early part of the speech to describing South Korea’s rapid economic development, and the contrasting economic and political conditions in the two Koreas.
Trump highlighted the North Korean regime’s brutal treatment of its people listing human rights atrocities being carried in that country.
Citing an incident where a half-Chinese baby was killed by the North Korean authorities due to the infant’s mixed ethnicity, Trump questioned China’s stance on Pyongyang, saying “why would China feel an obligation to help North Korea?”
“It is the line between peace and war, between decency and depravity, between law and tyranny, between hope and total despair,” he said.
Describing North Korean dictatorship as a “sinister regime,” Trump went on to say that the destiny of the Korean people is “to thrive in the glory of freedom.”
Earlier on Wednesday, his second and last day here, Trump had boarded a helicopter heading to the Demilitarized Zone, the tense border between the two Koreas, in a surprise move. He had to cancel the visit, however, because the helicopter was unable to land due to poor weather conditions.
After the speech at the Assembly, Trump, along with first lady Melania Trump, laid a wreath at the Seoul National Cemetery in southern Seoul as the last thing his last official schedule before leaving South Korea.
His next stop on his five-nation Asian tour is Beijing, China.
By Choi He-suk (firstname.lastname@example.org)