confront North Korea and Iran or risk being ‘bystanders in history’

In a speech likely to draw comparisons with George W Bush’s ‘axis of evil’, the president will tell nations they must confront the twin threat to global security

White House official says Donald Trump’s first speech to United Nations on Tuesday will focus on ‘world regimes that threaten security’. Photograph: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

Donald Trump will use his first address to the UN general assembly on Tuesday to call for international action to confront North Korea and Iran, which he will portray as twin threats to global security, the White House said.

The US president will warn member states that they risk being “bystanders in history” if they do not mobilise to confront such threats, according to a senior White House official.

The official also said Trump would use his address to sketch out his vision of how nation states could cooperate in the face of such challenges without compromising their sovereignty. In that way, the official argued, asking for other nations to take part in collective action was consistent with Trump’s “America First” approach.

The president’s speech will focus on “world regimes that threaten security”, the official said.

“Obviously one of the chief regimes that will be singled out in this regard is the regime of North Korea and all of its destabilising hostile and dangerous behaviour, as well as of course the regime of Iran,” he argued.

“And in those two cases as well as others, an appeal to other nations to do their part in confronting these threats, and understanding it is a shared menace and that nations cannot be bystanders in history,” the official added. “And if you don’t confront the threats now, they will only gather force and become more formidable as time passes.”

Trump’s speech will seek to distinguish between the Iranian government and its population, and the president will suggest that they are at odds.

“One of the strategic implications of the speech is to point out that one of the greatest threats to the status quo in Iran is the Iranian people themselves,” the White House official said.

“So obviously there will be some discussion of the tension between the direction the country is currently being run in and the desires of the people and what kind of future they want to have. So there is a lot of strategic thought in the speech in terms of how to separate out the government from the people of Iran.”

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