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World

At U.N., Trump Promotes "America First" Mantra

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

President Donald Trump delivered his first address to the United Nations General Assembly today. He spoke for almost 40 minutes, laying out his vision for U.S. engagement with the world. The president promoted his nationalist America First mantra, which helped fuel his presidential campaign, as a rationale for global cooperation. NPR's Geoff Bennett was in the hall for the president's U.N. address.

GEOFF BENNETT, BYLINE: In his address, President Trump dispensed with the diplomatic talk to deliver what one senior administration official called a clear-eyed view of the world and the challenges it faces. In Trump's view, some parts of the world, he said, are going to hell. He encouraged nations to band together to fight evil.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: The scourge of our planet today is a small group of rogue regimes that violate every principle on which the United Nations is based. They respect neither their own citizens nor the sovereign rights of their countries. If the righteous many do not confront the wicked few, then evil will triumph.

BENNETT: He saved his toughest talk for North Korea. He mocked North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, referring to him by a nickname Trump first deployed on Twitter.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRUMP: 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. The United States is ready, willing and able, but hopefully this will not be necessary.

BENNETT: That set the room of diplomats abuzz. A Trump aide said Rocket Man was a late addition to the script, the president's own. Trump also slammed Venezuela and Iran, again hinting that the U.S. could withdraw from the multi-national Iran nuclear deal.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRUMP: The Iran deal was one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into. Frankly, that deal is an embarrassment to the United States, and I don't think you've heard the last of it. Believe me.

BENNETT: The president's America First vision provided the underpinnings of much of the speech.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRUMP: As president of the United States, I will always put America first just like you, as the leaders of your countries, will always and should always put your countries first.

(APPLAUSE)

BENNETT: Trump framed America First as an optimistic vision of international cooperation. With each member nation acting in its own self-interest, Trump posits, the U.N. would operate less as a world body and more as a group of sovereign nations, each working cooperatively while tackling major challenges and each sharing the cost burden.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRUMP: The United States will forever be a great friend to the world and especially to its allies. But we can no longer be taken advantage of or enter into a one-sided deal where the United States gets nothing in return. As long as I hold this office, I will defend America's interests above all else.

BENNETT: Trump said it's in every nation's interest to seek a future where all are sovereign, prosperous and secure. Geoff Bennett, NPR News, traveling with the president. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.