What Trump and team hope to get out of the UN General Assembly

North Korea, Iran and U.N. "reform" are at the top of the president's agenda.

ByABC News
September 18, 2017, 5:32 AM

— -- President Trump will this week play host at the United Nations General Assembly, where he'll tackle a series of global challenges as he faces backlash from not just adversaries but allies in an organization he disparaged as a candidate.

Here’s what the Trump administration will be focused on for its first UN General Assembly.

North Korea

North Korea continues to be the most difficult foreign policy challenge facing the White House, and Trump will be conducting diplomacy himself as he tries to win more support for his administration’s efforts to isolate and pressure the provocative regime.

Less than a month after the country’s sixth nuclear test -- and its largest yet, at 250 kilotons -- North Korea has said it intends to produce an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.

The latest test prompted a hard-fought and rare unanimous vote in favor of sanctions that included North Korean allies China and Russia. Passed one week ago Monday, they now ban over 90 percent of North Korean exports, limits its oil imports, and bans alternatives like natural gas.

That means time is running out, and as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Sunday, “If our diplomatic efforts fail, though, our military option will be the only one left.”

President Trump appeared to tout the new sanctions in tweet.

The U.N.

Candidate Trump bashed the U.N. for its “utter weakness and incompetence.”

“The United Nations is not a friend of democracy. It’s not a friend to freedom,” Trump told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s conference in 2016. “It’s not a friend even to the United States of America, where, as you know, it has its home. And it surely is not a friend to Israel.”

But administration officials say reform of the international forum, not withdrawal from it, is a top priority of his ambassador there. Nikki Haley showed up on her first day promising a “new day,” but explaining that the U.S. wanted “to show value at the U.N.”

Trump will participate in a forum on Monday with the U.N.’s senior leadership and the leaders of more than 120 other nations to discuss “Reforming the United Nations: Management, Security, and Development.”

Haley told reporters at the White House Friday that the organization "stopped focusing on the commas and the periods" and was "actually acting."

The administration called for severe cuts in funding to the organization -- funding that the U.N. says it cannot do its work without.

“U.S. aid is vital to what we do to support refugees around the world and to find solutions to their situations,” United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said standing next to Tillerson Sunday.

The fight against terrorism

The other key priority for the Trump administration will be the fight against terrorism. As the U.S. accelerates ISIS’s fall on the battlefield, it must now confront a global challenge of what comes next in Iraq and Syria as other terror groups and Iran -- which the U.S. calls the leading state sponsor of terrorism -- jockey for position.

Trump’s White House has delegated authorities to U.S. military commanders in the field and given the Pentagon broader powers to make decisions, which he says has bolstered the campaign against ISIS.

Trump will meet with several Middle Eastern allies to discuss that issue in particular, including Jordan’s King Abdullah and Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi on Wednesday and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani on Thursday.

They say together they will look for ways to support the governments in Iraq and Afghanistan, stop the flow of foreign fighters and their exportation of terror back to their home countries, and resolve the bloody conflict in Syria that has allowed terrorist groups to thrive in the heart of the Middle East.

The last two points are crucial for European allies, too, as the United Kingdom copes with its sixth terrorist attack this year alone.

Meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a strong Trump ally, will be a focal point for the White House. The two leaders will meet Monday, and Iran is expected to be a top priority as Israel grows increasingly concerned and active about Iranian influence in neighboring Syria.

Beyond Iran’s support for Hezbollah and other terror groups, Trump will also face an urgent question about what he plans to do with the Iran nuclear deal. Behind the scenes, his administration will likely measure support for the accord and potential changes or alternatives as it contemplates whether to withdraw.

The signatories of the deal, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, will meet this week to discuss the deal -- the highest-level meeting yet between the Trump administration and Iran.

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