The most important regional player, however, is not in New York: President Xi Jinping of China. He skipped this year’s United Nations session.
At an earlier encounter with reporters, Mr. Trump said he would impose more sanctions on North Korea, suggesting that he was still committed to a diplomatic path rather than immediate military action. North Korea has tested a nuclear bomb and intercontinental ballistic missiles in recent weeks amid an increasingly caustic war of words with the United States.
“We will be putting more sanctions on North Korea,” Mr. Trump said, responding to a reporter’s question as he opened a meeting with President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan.
He did not specify what he had in mind, and it remained doubtful that additional measures would change North Korea’s behavior. The United States and other nations have imposed a wide array of economic and diplomatic sanctions on North Korea over the years, most recently when the United Nations Security Council approved an American-drafted resolution last week.
While embracing Mr. Trump’s speech, Mr. Moon earlier in the day urged world leaders in his own address to the General Assembly to “peacefully solve the North Korea nuclear issue,” to step up diplomatic pressure and to do everything possible to prevent war on the Korean Peninsula.
Mr. Moon told the audience that he had been born during the Korean War and that his father had died while displaced from home. He urged world leaders to increase sanctions so that North Korea is compelled to choose what he called “the path of dialogue.” And he urged Pyongyang to “abandon its hostile policies against other countries and give up its nuclear weapons program in a verifiable and irreversible way.”
The speech was a counterpoint to the Trump administration’s bellicose threats. “All of our endeavors are to prevent the outbreak of war from breaking out and maintain peace,” Mr. Moon said. “In that respect, the situation surrounding the North Korean nuclear issue needs to be managed stably so that tensions will not become overly intensified or accidental military clashes will not destroy peace.”
Mr. Moon sought to reassure the North about the South’s ambitions. “We do not desire the collapse of North Korea,” he said. “We will not seek unification by absorption or artificial means. If North Korea makes a decision even now to stand on the right side of history, we are ready to assist North Korea together with the international community.”
The speech came a day after North Korea likened Mr. Trump to a “dog barking.”
“Back home, we have a saying: The dog barks, but the caravan continues,” North Korea’s foreign minister, Ri Yong-ho, told reporters in New York on Wednesday when asked about Mr. Trump’s speech. “If he thought he could scare us with the noise of a dog barking, well, he should be daydreaming.”
Vice President Mike Pence said Mr. Trump would focus on nonviolent options during Thursday’s meetings with South Korean and Japanese leaders. Mr. Pence told Fox News that they would talk about marshaling “the economic and diplomatic power of the region and the wider world to achieve a peaceable outcome.”
But he said Mr. Trump was serious about his threat.
“We do not desire a military conflict,” Mr. Pence said. “But the president has made it very clear, as he did at the U.N. this week, that all options are on the table and we are simply not going to tolerate a rogue regime in Pyongyang obtaining usable nuclear weapons that could be mounted on a ballistic missile and threaten the people of the United States or our allies.”
Nicholas Burns, an under secretary of state under President George W. Bush, said Mr. Trump’s meeting with the Japanese and South Korean leaders was critical.
“What has been missing in Trump’s North Korea strategy is a major diplomatic show of unity among these three countries,” he said. “By standing firmly beside South Korea and Japan, President Trump can strengthen our strategic deterrence against Pyongyang.”
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