(NEW YORK) — President Trump’s threat to “totally destroy North Korea” at the United Nations Tuesday divided Republicans and Democrats, and the president’s critics warned that his speech could escalate tensions between Washington and Pyongyang.
“The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea. Rocket man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime,” Trump said in his first address to the United Nations General Assembly as president. “The United States is ready, willing and able, but hopefully this will not be necessary.”
Shortly after the address, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said the president’s speech ran counter to the mission of the international organization.
“The goals of the United Nations are to foster peace and promote global cooperation,” Feinstein said in a statement. “Today, the president used it as a stage to threaten war.”
Feinstein, who’s still weighing whether to run for re-election in 2018, also criticized the president’s rhetoric on North Korea.
“Trump’s bombastic threat to destroy North Korea and his refusal to present any positive pathways forward on the many global challenges we face are severe disappointments,” said Feinstein. “He aims to unify the world through tactics of intimidation, but in reality he only further isolates the United States.”
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders used Twitter to point out former President Obama’s remarks from a 2016 interview with CBS News that the U.S. “could, obviously, destroy North Korea with our arsenals.”
Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who was critical of Trump during the election, praised the president for delivering a “strong and needed challenge” to the U.N. assembly “to live up to its charter and to confront global challenges.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was highly complimentary of the speech, which specifically highlighted what Trump described as Iran’s efforts to export “violence, bloodshed and chaos.”
“In over 30 years in my experience with the UN, I never heard a bolder or more courageous speech,” said Netanyahu. “President Trump spoke the truth about the great dangers facing our world and issued a powerful call to confront them in order to ensure the future of humanity.”
Democratic Rep. Mark Takano of California slammed Trump’s speech on Twitter as “shockingly reckless,” arguing that Trump’s call to “totally destroy North Korea” would cost millions of lives.
Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., echoed the criticism, characterizing the president as having employed “dangerous rhetoric” and vowing to defend the Iran nuclear deal. In his speech Tuesday morning, Trump called the agreement “one-sided” and “an embarrassment to the United States,” while hinting the U.S. could withdraw from it.
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