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Trump, at U.N., Scorns ‘Unaccountable Global Bureaucracy’

UNITED NATIONS — President Trump on Tuesday defiantly reaffirmed his commitment to an “America First” foreign policy, lashing out at foes like Iran and failing states like Venezuela. But he singled out an enemy-turned-partner, Kim Jong-un of North Korea, expressing optimism for a diplomatic opening that would have seemed far-fetched even a year ago.

Speaking for a second time to the United Nations General Assembly, Mr. Trump said: “We will never surrender America’s sovereignty to an unelected, unaccountable global bureaucracy. We reject the ideology of globalism, and we embrace the doctrine of patriotism.”

Mr. Trump lavished praise on his own efforts to shake up the global order in his first 20 months in office, pointing to his withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, trade agreements and numerous international organizations, as well as his recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

He also celebrated his record as a statesman, asserting that his summit meeting last June in Singapore with Mr. Kim, whom he accused of mass murder last year, had reduced the nuclear threat from the North.

“The missiles and rockets are no longer flying in every direction, nuclear testing has stopped, some military facilities are already being dismantled,” Mr. Trump said. “I would like to thank Chairman Kim for his courage and for the steps he has taken, though much work needs to be done.”

Mr. Trump saved his most excoriating words for what he called the “corrupt dictatorship” in Iran. He accused the Iranian government of looting its own people and using the financial windfall from the nuclear deal to finance what he described as a terrorism campaign that is destabilizing the entire Middle East.

“Iran’s leaders sow chaos, death and destruction,” Mr. Trump declared. “They do not respect their neighbor or borders, or the sovereign rights of nations.”

“Not good,” he added.

Mr. Trump’s 34-minute address drew a mostly stone-faced response from the audience in the General Assembly chamber, which included emissaries from several of the countries he targeted. But there was one moment of levity early on, albeit at the president’s expense.

When he declared that his administration had “accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country,” the audience broke out into murmurs and laughter.

Pausing, Mr. Trump said, “I did not expect that reaction.” Then he smiled and added, “But that’s O.K.,” drawing his only applause of the day.

Mr. Trump’s speech showed a president at once fickle and set in his ways: His emphasis on sovereignty was a repeat of the big idea in last year’s General Assembly address, and showed that on the core principles of his “America First” foreign policy, Mr. Trump is not budging.

Yet his warm words for Mr. Kim were a 180-degree shift from last year, when he called the North Korean leader “Rocket Man” on a suicidal collision course with the United States. That showed an openness to radical shifts in approach, based on his idiosyncratic view of personal diplomacy and his self-avowed skill as a dealmaker.

As he did last year, Mr. Trump relied on his senior domestic adviser, Stephen Miller, for much of the speechwriting. Mr. Miller has spearheaded the White House’s immigration policy and its decision to cut back the number of refugees the United States will accept. The national security adviser, John R. Bolton, an even more ardent proponent than Mr. Trump of the virtues of sovereignty, also injected themes.

For presidents, General Assembly speeches are a good guide to the evolution of their thinking. In 2009, his first year in office, Barack Obama delivered a soaring paean to the need for diplomacy and collective action, promising to seek a new start with Iran and thrusting the United States back into the climate change debate after eight years of George W. Bush.

By 2014, Mr. Obama had cast off some of his early ambitions and dwelt instead on the threat from the Islamic State. In his last speech, in September 2016, he called for a course correction in the march toward globalization, warning about the dangers of tribalism that were laid bare in Mr. Trump’s election victory two months later.

Mr. Trump has not yet faced a major foreign policy crisis, and his speech reflected his good fortune. He still spoke mostly about actions he had taken to unwind Mr. Obama’s legacy on trade, foreign assistance and Iran. With the exception of North Korea, he spoke less about how he had reacted to the challenges of a changing world.

The president expressed resentment toward a familiar collection of malefactors: allies, whom he said did not pay their fair share for military defense; trading partners, whom he said exploited unfair agreements that harmed American workers; and oil producers, whom he accused of gouging the United States and other customers.

“OPEC and OPEC nations are, as usual, ripping off the rest of the world, and I don’t like it,” Mr. Trump said. “Nobody should like it.”

He also assailed countries, like China, that use industrial planning in their economies to undercut competitors on trade. The United States, Mr. Trump said, was systematically renegotiating what he called unfair trade deals. But he was careful to express “great respect” for “my friend President Xi,” referring to China’s leader, Xi Jinping, and thanked him for China’s support on North Korea.

America’s other great strategic rival, Russia, went unmentioned in Mr. Trump’s speech, except for a fleeting reference to what he described as Germany’s dependence on Russian natural gas.

On Iran, Mr. Trump called for a worldwide coalition to isolate it. He claimed, without citing evidence, that there was widespread approval for his decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal brokered by Mr. Obama, and promised another round of punishing sanctions against the Iranian government in November.

“We cannot allow the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism to possess the planet’s most dangerous weapons,” Mr. Trump said.

Aside from Iran, Venezuela drew his harshest criticism. He described the political tumult roiling the country as a “human tragedy” and said the United States would impose new sanctions on the government of President Nicolás Maduro. Socialism, Mr. Trump said, had squandered Venezuela’s oil resources and “driven its people into abject poverty.”

The president spoke of the great potential of the United Nations, but expressed little regard for other international bodies. The United States, he said, had rightfully pulled out of the Human Rights Council, refused to take part in the Global Compact on Migration and threatened sanctions against the International Criminal Court if it prosecutes Americans.

He singled out India, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Poland as worthy partners of the United States: nations that he said had distinctive traditions and cultures, patriotic societies and a fierce commitment to independence.

“Sovereign and independent nations are the only vehicle where freedom has ever survived, where democracy has ever endured, where peace has ever prospered,” Mr. Trump said. “We must cherish our independence and sovereignty above all.”

Source: NYT > World

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