U.S. President Donald Trump began his presidency on the resonance of his aggressive "America First" agenda, and now, as he is set to address the UN General Assembly today, is expected to deliver a speech that will focus on that message, as well as his country's role in foreign matters.
Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told reporters in a preview of Trump's visit that the president's focus "will be very much on the United States," its role and the relations it wants to build.
"He is looking forward to talking about foreign policy successes the United States has had over the past year and where we're going to go from here," she said. "He wants to talk about protecting U.S. sovereignty," while building relationships with nations that "share those values."
Between promoting the wisdom of his rapprochement with North Korea's Kim Jong-un and railing against Iran's malign influence across the Middle East, Trump has found himself forced to confront the growing shadows of domestic political troubles.
White House aides had cast Trump's visit to New York in triumphal terms: an opportunity to assert American sovereignty before the multinational body. He was set to be unapologetic about his decisions to engage with the erstwhile pariah North Korea, remove the U.S. from the Iran nuclear accord and object to UN aid programs he believes are contrary to American interests.
Trump is to address the General Assembly on Tuesday morning and will chair a meeting Wednesday of the UN Security Council on the topic of counterproliferation. The four days of choreographed foreign affairs were to stand in contrast to a presidency largely defined by disorder.
Trump on Tuesday tweeted that he had no intention to meet with his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani, on the sidelines of the General Assembly.
"Despite requests, I have no plans to meet Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. Maybe someday in the future. I am sure he is an absolutely lovely man!" Trump wrote.
Appearances on the global stage tend to elevate the stature of presidents both abroad and at home. But even before his arrival for the annual bonanza of world leaders and diplomats, the desired image was muddied by confusion in Washington.
The fate of his second Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, was cast into fresh doubt over the weekend amid a second allegation of sexual misconduct.
Drama also swirled Monday around the status of his deputy attorney general. Rod Rosenstein was reported last week to have floated the idea of secretly recording Trump last year and to have raised the idea of using the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office. The man overseeing special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe and a frequent target of Trump's ire offered to resign and fully expected Monday to be fired. He received a stay of punishment at least until Thursday, when he is to meet with Trump at the White House.
Last year 'a dangerous time'
A year ago, Trump stood at the international rostrum and derided the North Korean leader as Little Rocket Man, and threatened to "totally destroy North Korea."
"It was a different world," Trump said Monday of his then moniker for the North Korean leader. "That was a dangerous time. This is one year later, a much different time."
Trump praised Kim as "very open" and "terrific," despite the sluggish pace of progress toward denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in delivered a personal message to Trump from Kim after their inter-Korean talks last week in Pyongyang.
"You are the only person who can solve this problem," Moon said to Trump, relaying Kim's words.
The president said the location for a second summit with Kim is still to be determined, but officials have said Trump is holding out hope it could take place on American soil. Such a move would present a complex political and logistical challenge for the North Korean leader. Trump has often fondly invoked the Singapore summit, a made-for-TV event that attracted the world's media attention and largely received positive marks from cable pundits — reviews that were not repeated for his summit with Russia's Vladimir Putin in Helsinki the following month.
Trade deal with South Korea
Trump and Moon on Monday signed a new version of the U.S.-South Korean trade agreement, marking one of Trump's first successes in his effort to renegotiate economic deals on more favourable terms for the U.S. Trump labelled it a "very big deal" and said the new agreement makes significant improvements to reduce the trade deficit between the countries and create opportunities to export American products to South Korea.
In both venues, U.S. officials say, Trump is expected both on Tuesday and Wednesday to offer a contrast between the path of negotiation chosen by North Korea and that of Iran. Trump earlier this year bucked allies and removed the U.S. from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, citing Iran's malign influence in the region and support for groups like Hezbollah. The next round of tough sanctions on Iran is set to go into effect in November.