By Kirsten Korosec
September 19, 2017

During his speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, President Donald Trump called North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “Rocket Man” and threatened to “totally destroy” the nation of 25 million people in a new level of bombastic rhetoric for the President of the United States.

But what he didn’t say was just as telling.

While Trump lambasted North Korea and Venezuela for their human rights records, Iran for the regime’s support of terrorists, and Cuba for corruption, he never directly condemned China or Russia directly for policies that have been antagonistic and even aggressive towards the U.S.

The U.S. president did make vague references to China and Russia, but he never directly named them. For instance, at one point Trump called out countries for trading with North Korea, a veiled reference aimed at China and Russia. (China is North Korea’s biggest trading partner.)

“It is an outrage that some nations would not only trade with such a regime, but would arm, supply, and financially support a country that imperils the world with nuclear conflict,” Trump said in his speech. “No nation on Earth has an interest in seeing this band of criminals arm itself with nuclear weapons and missiles.”

He went on: “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. That’s what the United Nations is all about; that’s what the United Nations is for. Let’s see how they do.”

 

At another point in the speech, Trump said: “We must reject threats to sovereignty, from the Ukraine to the South China Sea.” It was another comment aimed at Russia and China without ever actually naming the two countries.

The only time Trump directly addressed Russia and China is when he praised them for joining a United Nations Security Council vote to impose sanctions on North Korea.

“It is time for North Korea to realize that the denuclearization is its only acceptable future,” Trump said. “The United Nations Security Council recently held two unanimous 15-to-0 votes adopting hard-hitting resolutions against North Korea, and I want to thank China and Russia for joining the vote to impose sanctions, along with all of the other members of the Security Council. Thank you to all involved.”

Trump’s non-naming is as important as his bold declarations against Cuba, Venezuela, Iran, and North Korea. And it shows a glimmer of foreign strategy. China or Russia might be adversaries, but the U.S. will need their support if the standoff with North Korea continues to escalate.

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