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Donald Trump

US President Trump to offer warmth to allies, warnings to adversaries at debut UN General Assembly

Topics certain to be on his agenda are North Korea and its aggressive missile testing, and Iran, which he has accused of violating a nuclear deal

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 17 September, 2017, 6:32am
UPDATED : Sunday, 17 September, 2017, 6:32am

President Donald Trump will use his debut speech to the UN General Assembly next week to offer warmth to United States allies and warnings to adversaries.

“He slaps the right people, he hugs the right people and he comes out very strong in the end,” US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said on Friday as she previewed Trump’s speech for the Tuesday assembly.

Addressing the UN General Assembly is a milestone moment for any president, but one particularly significant for Trump, a relative newcomer to foreign policy who has at times rattled the international community with his unpredictability.

You often have one 15-minute meeting after another ... It’s kind of like speed dating from hell
Jon Alterman

“No one is going to grip and grin,” Haley said. “The United States is going to work.”

National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said Trump “will urge all states to come together to address great dangers” facing the world. Among topics certain to be on the agenda: North Korea, which has defied both sanctions and Trump’s threats by continuing with its aggressive missile testing, and Iran, which the president has accused of violating an international nuclear deal.

Trump has been sharply critical of the UN in the past, denouncing its “utter weakness and incompetence”.

As president-elect, he derided it as “a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time”.

He also suggested deep cuts to US funding for the UN.

Haley and McMaster outlined a robust schedule for Trump, who will also be joined by Vice-President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and other top advisers. The meetings on the sidelines of the UN are often done in rapid succession, a wearying test for even the most experienced foreign policy team.

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Jon Alterman, of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, said the assembly “is an incredibly sophisticated dance that doesn’t really play to Tillerson’s strengths or to the president’s strengths”. “You often have one 15-minute meeting after another,” with the goal of keeping focused on key points. “It’s kind of like speed dating from hell,” he said.

The president will meet French President Emmanuel Macron and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a close ally, on Monday before holding a dinner with Latin American leaders.

On Tuesday, in addition to his General Assembly speech, Trump will meet the emir of Qatar, whose kingdom is embroiled in a dispute with other Middle Eastern nations, including Saudi Arabia, over alleged funding of terror groups.

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On Wednesday he will hold a working lunch with African leaders and meet the heads of Jordan, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority. The White House has played down prospects for a major moment in the Middle East peace process.

Trump will also sit down with British Prime Minster Theresa May, just days after she scolded him for choosing to publicly “speculate” about the nature of an explosion on Friday that injured at least 22 people in the London Underground.

Trump, who will stay in his Manhattan penthouse at Trump Tower, will conclude his stay on Thursday with meetings with leaders from Turkey, Afghanistan and Ukraine before holding a lunch with the leaders of South Korea and Japan, largely to discuss the threats emanating from North Korea.

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The presidents of China and Russia are not expected to attend the meetings.

Other topics on the agenda include the unstable situations in Venezuela and Syria and the fight against Islamic State and al-Qaeda terror groups. McMaster said improving business ties between the US and other nations will also be on the agenda.

“This administration’s ironclad commitment to free, fair and reciprocal trade and access to markets will be the bedrock of our economic talks,” he said.