U.S. President Donald Trump (center) makes his way through diplomats and others after a meeting during the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters on Monday in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

U.S. President Donald Trump (center) makes his way through diplomats and others after a meeting during the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters on Monday in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Trump calls for UN reform, but with more restrained tones

While the president chastised the U.N., he pledged that the U.S. would be “be partners in your work.”

By Jonathan Lemire and Darlene Superville

Associated Press

UNITED NATIONS — President Donald Trump used his United Nations debut Monday to prod the international organization to cut its bloated bureaucracy and sharpen its ill-defined mission. But he pledged U.S. support for the world body he had excoriated as a candidate, and his criticisms were more restrained than in years past.

“In recent years, the United Nations has not reached its full potential due to bureaucracy and mismanagement,” Trump said. “We are not seeing the results in line with this investment.”

The president urged the U.N. to focus “more on people and less on bureaucracy” and to change “business as usual and not be beholden to ways of the past which were not working.” He also suggested the U.S. was paying more than its fair share to keep the New York-based world body operational.

The short remarks at a forum on U.N. reforms were a precursor to Tuesday’s main event, when Trump will address the U.N. General Assembly for the first time, a speech nervously awaited by world leaders concerned about what the president’s “America first” vision means for the future of the world body.

Trump riffed on his campaign slogan when asked to preview his central message to the General Assembly, saying: “I think the main message is ‘make the United Nations great’ — not ‘again.’ ‘Make the United Nations great.’ ”

“Such tremendous potential, and I think we’ll be able to do this,” he added.

But even as the president chastised the U.N., he pledged that the United States would “be partners in your work” to make the organization a more effective force for peace across the globe.

He praised the U.N.’s early steps toward reform and made no threats to withdraw U.S. support. The president’s more measured tone stood in sharp contrast to the approach he took at NATO’s new Brussels headquarters in May, when he scolded member nations for not paying enough and refused to explicitly back its mutual defense pact.

While running for office, Trump had labeled the U.N. as weak and incompetent, and not a friend of either the United States or Israel. But he has softened his message since taking office, telling ambassadors at a White House meeting in April that the U.N. has “tremendous potential.”

Trump more recently has praised a pair of unanimous U.N. Security Council votes to tighten sanctions on North Korea over its continued nuclear weapons and ballistic missile tests.

The annual gathering of world leaders opens amid serious concerns about Trump’s priorities. For many world leaders, it will be their first chance to take the measure of the president in person.

The president on Monday praised U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who said he shared Trump’s vision for a less-wasteful U.N. that will “live up to its full potential.” The U.S. has asked member nations to sign a declaration on U.N. reforms, and more than 120 have done so.

True to form, the president also managed to work into his speech a reference to the Trump-branded apartment tower across First Avenue from the U.N.

His speech began a busy week of diplomacy for Trump, who is scheduled to meet separately with more than a dozen world leaders along the sidelines of the U.N. In his first bilateral meeting, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump declared that they “are giving it an absolute go” on Middle East peace talks.

Trump is to meet with the head of the Palestinian Authority later in the week, but the White House has played down prospects for a breakthrough.

U.S. national security adviser H.R. McMaster said “Iran’s destabilizing behavior” would be a major focus of those discussions. While seated next to Netanyahu, a vociferous critic of the Iran nuclear deal, Trump declared “you’ll see very soon” when asked if the U.S. would stay in the agreement. Netanyahu, for his part, labeled it “a terrible nuclear deal.”

Trump arrived at the U.N. a few months after announcing that he was withdrawing the U.S. from an international climate agreement — negotiated during the Obama administration and signed by nearly 200 countries — and amid speculation that he might be softening his position.

But Gary Cohn, one of Trump’s top economic advisers, reiterated during a meeting with energy ministers that Trump will proceed with the withdrawal plan unless terms more favorable to the U.S. can be negotiated, said a senior White House official. The official insisted on anonymity to discuss details of a private meeting.

Major European powers that support the pact have said it cannot be renegotiated.

Trump also met Monday with French President Emmanuel Macron to discuss efforts to combat terrorism. He mused about ordering up a military parade down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington to rival the one he witnessed in Paris on Bastille Day.

He planned to have dinner with Latin American leaders.

The United States is the largest contributor to the U.N. budget, reflecting its position as the world’s largest economy. It pays 25 percent of the U.N.’s regular operating budget and over 28 percent of the separate peacekeeping budget — a level of spending that Trump has complained is unfair. The U.S has yet to make its payment this year, leading some in the U.N. to be fearful that it may slash its contribution.

Talk to us

More in Nation-World

A woman reacts as she prepares to leave an area for relatives of the passengers aboard China Eastern's flight MU5735 at the Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport, Tuesday, March 22, 2022, in Guangzhou. No survivors have been found as rescuers on Tuesday searched the scattered wreckage of a China Eastern plane carrying 132 people that crashed a day earlier on a wooded mountainside in China's worst air disaster in more than a decade. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
No survivors found in crash of Boeing 737 in China

What caused the plane to drop out of the sky shortly before it was to being its descent remained a mystery.

In this photo taken by mobile phone released by Xinhua News Agency, a piece of wreckage of the China Eastern's flight MU5735 are seen after it crashed on the mountain in Tengxian County, south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region on Monday, March 21, 2022. A China Eastern Boeing 737-800 with 132 people on board crashed in a remote mountainous area of southern China on Monday, officials said, setting off a forest fire visible from space in the country's worst air disaster in nearly a decade. (Xinhua via AP)
Boeing 737 crashes in southern China with 132 aboard

More than 15 hours after communication was lost with the plane, there was still no word of survivors.

In this photo taken from video provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks to the nation in Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. Street fighting broke out in Ukraine's second-largest city Sunday and Russian troops put increasing pressure on strategic ports in the country's south following a wave of attacks on airfields and fuel facilities elsewhere that appeared to mark a new phase of Russia's invasion. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)
Ukraine wants EU membership, but accession often takes years

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s request has enthusiastic support from several member states.

FILE - Ukrainian servicemen walk by fragments of a downed aircraft,  in in Kyiv, Ukraine, Friday, Feb. 25, 2022. The International Criminal Court's prosecutor has put combatants and their commanders on notice that he is monitoring Russia's invasion of Ukraine and has jurisdiction to prosecute war crimes and crimes against humanity. But, at the same time, Prosecutor Karim Khan acknowledges that he cannot investigate the crime of aggression. (AP Photo/Oleksandr Ratushniak, File)
ICC prosecutor to open probe into war crimes in Ukraine

U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet confirmed that 102 civilians have been killed.

FILE - Refugees fleeing conflict from neighboring Ukraine arrive to Zahony, Hungary, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. As hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians seek refuge in neighboring countries, cradling children in one arm and clutching belongings in the other, leaders in Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, Moldova and Romania are offering a hearty welcome. (AP Photo/Anna Szilagyi, File)
Europe welcomes Ukrainian refugees — others, less so

It is a stark difference from treatment given to migrants and refugees from the Middle East and Africa.

Afghan evacuees disembark the plane and board a bus after landing at Skopje International Airport, North Macedonia, on Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021. North Macedonia has hosted another group of 44 Afghan evacuees on Wednesday where they will be sheltered temporarily till their transfer to final destinations. (AP Photo/Boris Grdanoski)
‘They are safe here.’ Snohomish County welcomes hundreds of Afghans

The county’s welcoming center has been a hub of services and assistance for migrants fleeing Afghanistan since October.

FILE - In this April 15, 2019, file photo, a vendor makes change for a marijuana customer at a cannabis marketplace in Los Angeles. An unwelcome trend is emerging in California, as the nation's most populous state enters its fifth year of broad legal marijuana sales. Industry experts say a growing number of license holders are secretly operating in the illegal market — working both sides of the economy to make ends meet. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)
In California pot market, a hazy line between legal and not

Industry insiders say the practice of working simultaneously in the legal and illicit markets is a financial reality.

19 dead, including 9 children, in NYC apartment fire

More than five dozen people were injured and 13 people were still in critical condition in the hospital.

15 dead after Russian skydiver plane crashes

The L-410, a Czech-made twin-engine turboprop, crashed near the town of Menzelinsk.

FILE - In this March 29, 2018, file photo, the logo for Facebook appears on screens at the Nasdaq MarketSite in New York's Times Square. Facebook prematurely turned off safeguards designed to thwart misinformation and rabble rousing after Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump in the 2020 elections in a moneymaking move that a company whistleblower alleges contributed to the deadly Jan. 6, 2021, invasion of the U.S. Capitol. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)
Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram in hourslong worldwide outage

Something made the social media giant’s routes inaccessable to the rest of the internet.

Oil washed up on Huntington Beach, Calif., on Sunday, Oct. 3, 2021. A major oil spill off the coast of Southern California fouled popular beaches and killed wildlife while crews scrambled Sunday to contain the crude before it spread further into protected wetlands. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)
Crews race to limited damage from California oil spill

At least 126,000 gallons (572,807 liters) of oil spilled into the waters off Orange County.

YouTube will remove videos with misinformation about any vaccine

The ban covers claims vaccines are dangerous or lead to chronic health outcomes such as autism.