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 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.
“If [the US] is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea,” Mr Trump said.
President Trump’s threat to “totally destroy” North Korea is implausible, according to Stewart Patrick, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, a New York think tank.
“I actually am very sceptical,” he told the BBC.
“I think the folks in the Pentagon when they look at military options are just aghast at the potential loss of life that could occur with at a minimum hundreds of thousands of South Koreans killed in Seoul.
“And I’m sure that [for] the South Korean government, the last thing on their mind right now is the notion that the United States should launch an attack, a pre-emptive attack of some sort on North Korea.”