President Trump on Tuesday will lay out his “America First” vision of foreign affairs in front of a skeptical audience at the United Nations.
Trump’s address to the U.N.’s General Assembly, the focal point of his visit, is a chance for Trump to deliver a message to world leaders who are uneasy about his leadership.
It’s also another opportunity for dignitaries to take their measure of the new president.
Here’s what to watch for on Tuesday.
North Korea and Iran in the crosshairs
Aides say Trump will urge other nations to confront rogue regimes like North Korea and Iran in remarks that may sound familiar to past presidents.
One senior administration official said curbing Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions “will be a major focus of the president’s speech and he will speak in extremely tough terms about the North Korean menace and the threat it poses to our security and the security of all the nations in that room.”
Trump plans to articulate his vision of “principled realism,” making the case that all countries must take on more responsibility for their own security while stressing that the United States has little interest in pressing foreign governments to better their human rights records or to promote democracy.
“It is a very inclusive vision but also one that is designed to rally other countries to do their part in forestalling some of these very grave and severe dangers,” the official said.
To that end, Trump is expected to keep his U.N.-bashing to a minimum, even though he slammed the organization as a do-nothing social club for world elites while he was a presidential candidate.
The right crowd?
Trump’s rallying cry against North Korea and Iran appears to be aimed at two nations: China and Russia. But their two top leaders will not be in attendance Tuesday.
Chinese President Xi Jinping frequently skips the U.N. General Assembly; the last time he showed up was in 2015 for the organization’s 70th anniversary. Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s last U.N. appearance was also the same year. Lower-level officials will attend Tuesday’s session in their place.
Both leaders represent countries that have permanent seats on the Security Council and their absence suggests no major action is expected on either North Korea or Iran.
But U.S. pressure won’t die down. Trump has repeatedly urged China to take drastic economic steps against North Korea to cut off sources of income it uses for its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
China and Russia both agreed to a new round of sanctions against Pyongyang at the U.N. Security Council, but the U.S. ideally wants Beijing to agree to an oil embargo on its neighbor. Trump spoke to Xi by phone on Monday to discuss North Korea.
The last two administrations have tried to break the Iranian-Russian alliance to no avail. U.S. officials are especially concerned about Putin’s support of Syrian leader Bashar Assad, a key Iranian partner.
The tensions also come at a time when Trump is considering scrapping the Iran nuclear deal, a step Russia has urged him not to take.
Will Trump stay on script?
Trump may have ruffled some feathers Monday at a U.S.-backed event on reforming the U.N., saying the 193-country organization is plagued by “bureaucracy and mismanagement.”
But Trump largely stuck to script and even extended an olive branch to U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres, who is pushing for reforms.
The two men will have lunch Tuesday to further discuss changes to the organization’s management structure.
Before that, Guterres and the delegates inside the wood-paneled U.N. assembly hall will be watching to see if the president sticks to his prepared remarks or improvises, like he tends to do at his campaign rallies.
Trump has mostly stuck to script during the biggest official speeches of his presidency, including his inaugural address and his first joint address to Congress.
But Trump also showed over the weekend he’s willing to use blunt language about foreign affairs, when he took to Twitter to dub North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “Rocket Man,” a reference to his unsanctioned missile tests.
Seeking a ‘deal’ with Qatar
Analysts like to describe foreign-leader meetings at the U.N. as diplomatic “speed dating” — often cursory and forgettable.
But Trump may try to get some real business done Tuesday afternoon when he sits down with the emir of Qatar, whose nation is locked in a heated dispute with its U.S.-allied neighbors on the Arabian Peninsula.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain cut off trade and diplomatic ties with Qatar during the summer over accusations that the Qatari government backs Iran and affiliated terror groups, which it denies.
“If I can help mediate between Qatar and, in particular, the UAE and Saudi Arabia, I would be willing to do so,” Trump said during a news conference this month with the leader of Kuwait. “And I think you’d have a deal worked out very quickly.”
The dispute has major implications for the world oil markets and the U.S. military, which keeps a large military base near Qatar’s capital of Doha.