Press Briefing on the President’s Agenda at the U.N. General Assembly | New York, NY

Press Briefings
Issued on: September 24, 2018
New York Hilton Midtown
New York, New York
11:09 A.M. EDT

SECRETARY POMPEO: Good morning, everyone. It’s an honor to be here in New York for the 73rd United Nations General Assembly, my first as Secretary of State. Kind of the Super Bowl of diplomacy. Americans can be proud of how our entire team is executing on the field today. I’m thrilled to be here with my friends Nikki and John, as well.

Americans expect the United States to assert bold leadership on the world stage that reflects our values. And under President Trump, we are certainly leading from the front.

This was clear from just the first meeting this morning, in which we issued a call for Global Action for the World Drug Problem, the scourge of drug trafficking, narcotics production, and substance abuse is intensifying on a global scale. Within the United States, President Trump is leading a massive and effective counterattack against it. It’s now time for every country to follow our lead.

Later today, the President will hold bilateral meetings with President Moon of South Korea, President Al-Sisi of Egypt, and President Macron of France. Whether it’s security issues, economic issues, human rights, or anything else, the President is asking for countries to exert their sovereignty to solve challenges and listening to what America can do to help.

This emphasis on sovereignty was, of course, the theme of President Trump’s speech to the General Assembly last year. That theme will endure in his speech tomorrow, along with a recap about how his call for every nation to do its part has paid dividends for the United States and the world over this past year.

For example, President Trump’s leadership, combined with efforts of countries to enforce the pressure campaign, has deescalated tensions with North Korea and brought us closer to our final goal: the final, fully verified denuclearization of the DRPK, as agreed to by Chairman Kim Jong Un.

Last week’s summit between President Moon and Chairman Kim yielded another positive step forward, but the President remains resolute: Now is the not the time to ease pressure.

And as you’ve heard too, President Trump will address the threat of nonproliferation at the Security Council, on Wednesday, and the need for responsible nations to stop the spread of weapons and technologies.

Among the topics that meeting will cover are North Korea, Syria, and Iran. You can bet the President will have well-deserved strong words for the Iranian regime, which is among the worst of violators of U.N. Security Council resolutions, if not the absolute worst in the world. He’ll call on every country to join our pressure campaign in order to thwart Iran’s global torrent of destructive activity.

Whether it’s Venezuela, South Sudan, Syria, Burma, China, the estimated 2.5 million victim — excuse me, 25 million victims of modern slavery around the world can also count on America’s support. Today is shaping up as a great first day. Lots more work to come this week.

President Trump and our entire diplomatic corps look forward to the days with our foreign counterparts as we work on achieving shared victories for all.

Ambassador Haley.

AMBASSADOR HALEY: Good morning. Happy UNGA. We got a great start today with the President’s event on counter-narcotics.

Really, to understand this event is to understand the fact that it wasn’t just a bunch of people getting into a room. Every country that attended had to sign a Global Call to Action, which basically said that they were going to implement something within their own countries that dealt with how they were going to deal with the supply and demand of drugs, the international cooperation they were going to do with other countries to stop illicit drugs, and then also treatment that can be done within their own countries.

And so the idea that the President was able to get 130 countries to sign on means that we are now having a global drug conversation that needed to be had for a long time.

As we go through UNGA, you are seeing over 140 heads of delegations that are here at the United Nations. We certainly are looking forward to the President’s speech tomorrow. As you can tell, last year we started UNGA and it was trying to figure what the U.S. presence was going to be. This year, we’re here with a bang. Not only is the President doing his speech, he’s going to be doing a Security Council meeting. Secretary Pompeo is also doing a Security Council meeting. The Vice President is doing an event on Venezuela. And so it’s all hands on deck by the United States.

He will be meeting with the Secretary-General. It’s been an interesting time knowing that, since the Secretary-General’s meeting last year, we have pulled out of the Paris Accord. We have pulled out of the Global Compact. We have pulled out of the Iran deal. And all of that is to say that the United States is determined to obviously be involved in multilateral organizations where we see it, but not in the way that they’re mandated on what the United States does or that infringes on the American people.

So with that, he will be hosting the reception, obviously tonight, with the heads of delegations. And then tomorrow night, he and the Vice President and the Secretary have agreed to host our Security Council members, as well as their foreign ministers.

And you know, with everything we’ve been able to get accomplished, whether it’s the arms embargo with South Sudan, whether it’s the idea that we were able to get three sanctions packages passed in North Korea, that we’ve got massive reform efforts that were done this past year and peacekeeping mandates completely rolled over. We would not be able to do that without the Security Council, and so that meeting is going to be very important.

But we look forward to a great week. Everyone is excited. The United States is always very happy to host this. New Yorkers may not be, but we’re going to make it a great UNGA. Thank you very much.

AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Well, thanks. I’m just delighted to be here. Everybody have a copy? I’ve got mine. It’s a little worn, but I still got it.

I just wanted to take a second and talk about one of the themes in the President’s remarks tomorrow. And I have been around long enough to know that I’m not going to step on any of his lines, but he is going to talk and elaborate on his views on sovereignty.

And I just wanted to explain that this is — why this is so important for Americans, because many people consider sovereignty a kind of abstract concept. It derives, obviously, from the word “sovereign,” meaning the monarch. But it’s one of the reasons I think America is exceptional, and that is we understand sovereignty not to be vested in the head of state; we understand it as the Framers said in the Constitution itself: “We the People.” We the people are sovereign in America. So that infringements on our sovereignty are not infringements on abstractions or infringements on the government, they’re an infringement on the people themselves.

We express our sovereignty through the Constitution, through our political process. It’s why that’s so important. And it’s why we believe — and of course, I’m speaking in secular terms here — that the Constitution is the highest authority that we recognize.

So in a number of different ways, the President is going to address this issue. And again, it’s the continuing theme of his — as Secretary Pompeo said, it was a theme in his last address to the General Assembly, it will be this year, and in a variety of other contexts that you’ll see.