September 26, 2018

A Year After 'Rocket Man' Speech, Trump Returns To U.N. With Eyes On Iran

By Ilan Goldenberg

When President Trump delivers his speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, one phrase is unlikely to show up: "rocket man."

A lot has changed since Trump used that derisive nickname for North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during his address at the U.N. last year — remarks where he also said the United States would "totally destroy" North Korea if necessary.

Since those comments, tensions have eased between Trump and Kim, with the leaders now exchanging compliments after holding a historic face-to-face summit in June.

"Everybody interpreted his comments [last year] as the prelude to war. You could not have a more stark difference in tone," said Brett Schaefer of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.

Part of Trump's mission at the U.N. this year will be promoting his warmer ties with North Korea as a foreign policy success, while also calling on nations to keep up pressure on Pyongyang through sanctions.

Although temperatures have cooled, there is still a question of how far North Korea is willing to go on denuclearization. Trump canceled Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's planned visit to North Korea in August, citing a "lack of progress" in dismantling the country's nuclear program.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley called out Russia earlier this month for allegedly helping North Korea skirt the international sanctions, a charge that Russia denied. Trump has also argued on multiple occasions that China is easing up on its enforcement of sanctions, as a form of retribution against the United States over trade disputes.

Listen to this segment and more from NPR

  • Reports
    • August 4, 2020
    Reengaging Iran

    The international community may find Iran ready to consider a return to negotiations in 2021—regardless of the results in November....

    By Ilan Goldenberg, Elisa Catalano Ewers & Kaleigh Thomas

  • Commentary
    • July 30, 2020
    Sharper: Global Coronavirus Response

    Analysis from CNAS experts on the most critical challenges in U.S. foreign policy....

    By Chris Estep & Cole Stevens

  • Commentary
    • July 20, 2020
    Demilitarizing U.S. Policy in the Middle East

    The next NDS must detail a new approach to the Middle East....

    By Ilan Goldenberg & Kaleigh Thomas

  • Commentary
    • War on the Rocks
    • July 16, 2020
    How Iran’s Oil Infrastructure Gambit Could Imperil the Strait of Hormuz

    A series of mysterious and seemingly random explosions continue to erupt across various parts of Iran this month, hitting sensitive military sites, as well as populated reside...

    By Elisa Catalano Ewers & Ariane Tabatabai

View All Reports View All Articles & Multimedia