US to address leaders

UNITED NATIONS – North Korea’s nuclear threat looms large this week over the annual gathering of world leaders at the United Nations in New York, where diplomats are eager to hear US President Donald Trump address the 193-member body for the first time.

North Korean diplomats will have a front-row seat in the UN General Assembly for Mr Trump’s speech on Tuesday morning, which will touch on the escalating crisis that has seen Mr Trump and Pyongyang trade threats of military action.

Despite his scepticism about the value of international organisations and the United Nations in particular, Mr Trump will seek support for tough measures against North Korea, while pressing his “America First” message to the world body.

“This is not an issue between the United States and North Korea. This is an issue between the world and North Korea,” Mr Trump’s national security adviser, Herbert McMaster, said on Friday.

UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres — who, like Mr Trump, took office in January — plans to meet separately with “concerned parties,” including North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho, on the sidelines of the 72nd General Assembly.

“The solution can only be political. Military action could cause devastation on a scale that would take generations to overcome,” Mr Guterres warned on Wednesday.

A week ago, the 15-member UN Security Council unanimously adopted its ninth sanctions resolution since 2006 over North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

US ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said UN sanctions had banned 90 per cent of the Asian state’s publicly reported exports, saying of Pyongyang on Friday: “This is totally in their hands on how they respond.”

Ms Haley told CNN’s “State of the Union” program on Sunday that Washington had “pretty much exhausted” its options on North Korea at the Security Council.

Some leaders will also push Mr Trump not to give up on a 2015 deal curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions in return for a lifting of UN, US and European sanctions, while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said it was time to “fix it or cancel it.”

The foreign ministers of Iran, the United States, Britain, Germany, Russia, China and France — the parties to the agreement — were due to meet on Wednesday ahead of an October deadline for Mr Trump to tell Congress if he believed Tehran was sticking to what he has described as “the worst deal ever negotiated.”

When asked on Friday what Moscow’s message would be for Washington, Russia’s UN ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said: “Stay in the JCPOA (the nuclear deal).”

A senior UN Security Council diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: “We are faced with real uncertainties with respect to North Korea and it’s a bit dangerous … to add another source of uncertainty with respect to Iran.”

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Sunday his country would not be bullied by the US and would react strongly to any “wrong move” by Washington on the nuclear deal.

Iran and North Korea will also feature heavily during a ministerial Security Council meeting on Thursday, at the request of the US to discuss the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

While leaders and diplomats are also due to meet on longer-running crises including Libya, Syria, South Sudan, Mali, Central African Republic, Yemen and Iraq, a last-minute addition has been Myanmar, where the UN has branded violence against Rohingya Muslims as “ethnic cleansing”.

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