US President Donald Trump delivered a blunt warning to North Korea: "Do not underestimate us. And do not try us." Trump sent the message during a speech to South Korea's National Assembly in Seoul. (Nov. 8) AP
SEOUL — Arguing that the world cannot tolerate a "rogue regime" that threatens "nuclear devastation," President Trump called on all countries Wednesday to ratchet up economic and diplomatic pressure on North Korea and demand that Kim Jong Un's government give up nuclear weapons.
"All responsible nations must join forces to isolate the brutal regime of North Korea" and deny it economic support or diplomatic acceptance, Trump told the South Korean National Assembly in a formal address included repeated warnings to Kim's government.
"I hope I speak not only for our countries, but for all civilized nations, when I say to the North: Do not underestimate us, and do not try us," Trump told South Korean legislators. "We will not allow American cities to be threatened with destruction. We will not be intimidated."
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In the Seoul speech beamed to a global audience, Trump made several self-references, including the fact that the speech fell on the one-year anniversary of his election. In praising South Korea's contributions to the world, Trump mentioned its many world-class golfers, and stressed that some of them played at this year's U.S. Women's Open held at the president's club in Bedminster, N.J.
Trump spoke just a few hours after he tried to visit the Demilitarized Zone between South and North Korea, only to be foiled by fog that kept his helicopter grounded. After his address, Trump continued his Asia tour and headed to a country that is key to his anti-North Korea coalition: China.
In condemning Kim for its brutal regime and nuclear threats, Trump heralded the longtime U.S. alliance with South Korea, including the sacrifices made during the civil war on the Korean Peninsula in the early 1950s.
Linking the Korean War to today's nuclear challenges, Trump said, "We will not let the worst atrocities in history be repeated here, on this ground we fought and died so hard to secure."
While condemning North Korea as a living hell, Trump also avoided the trash-talking he has previously employed against North Korea. He did not call Kim "Rocket Man," nor did he promise "fire and fury" if North Korea moved against the United States or it allies.
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As he has previously on this Asia trip, Trump broached the idea of negotiations with North Korea, pledging "a path to a much better future" if it gives up nuclear weapon programs and stops making threats.
The speech earned positive initial reviews, though analysts said it remains to be seen whether other countries follow up on Trump's demands.
"Amazingly, Trump stuck to the script, gave a powerful speech and offered a carrot to NK while waving a big stick," tweeted Martin Indyk, executive vice president with the Washington-based Brookings Institution.
Yet Trump's references to himself did not go unnoticed.
"Did he just promote his golf course in a speech broadcast worldwide?!" tweeted Walter Shaub, former director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics.
Before Trump left for Asia, White House officials had left the DMZ off the presidential schedule, saying it wouldn't be necessary. One official went so far as to describe a DMZ trip as "a cliche."
But tentative plans for a visit were in the works. Sanders said South Korea President Moon Jae-in had planned to join Trump for a "historic moment" at the DMZ.
But the bad weather ruined those plans.
"He's actually pretty frustrated," Trump spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said after the secret trip was scrubbed, adding that a DMZ visit was "something the president wanted to do.