State of the Union

Trump: U.S. Aid Is Only for Friends, Must Serve American Interests

The president urged Congress to amend 'terrible' Iran deal, warned threat of North Korean nuclear missiles could soon become reality

U.S. President Donald Trump delivers his first State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress inside the House Chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 30, 2018.
\ POOL/REUTERS

In his first State of the Union speech on Tuesday, U.S. President Donald Trump called on Congress to pass legislation that would "ensure American foreign-assistance dollars always serve American interests, and only go to America's friends." He also praised his own decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, and asked Congress to amend the nuclear deal with Iran.

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While Trump spoke about the success of the military campaign against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, he stated that "there is much more work to be done," and promised that the United States would "continue our fight until ISIS is defeated." 

Trump made four direct references to the Middle East in the hour-long speech that otherwise focused on his economic and immigration agenda. Trump also touched on a number of other key foreign policy issues facing his administration, prominent among them Iran and North Korea. China and Russia too earned a mention, albiet briefly, as did Mexico and Venezuela.

"Last month," Trump said, "I took an action endorsed unanimously by the Senate just months before: I recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel," drawing substantial applause. Shortly afterwards, he added, "dozens of countries voted in the United Nations General Assembly against America's sovereign right to make this recognition. American taxpayers generously send those same countries billions of dollars in aid every year."

"That is why," he explained, "I am asking the Congress to pass legislation to help ensure American foreign-assistance dollars always serve American interests, and only go to America's friends." Trump also said that the United States will restore "clarity about our adversaries." 

U.S. President Donald Trump, center, gestures while delivering a State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2018.
Win McNamee/Pool via Bloomberg

Speaking on Iran, he said: "When the people of Iran rose up against the crimes of their corrupt dictatorship, I did not stay silent. America stands with the people of Iran in their courageous struggle for freedom. I am asking Congress to address the fundamental flaws in the terrible Iran nuclear deal."

The one foreign policy issue that received the most significant attention from Trump was North Korea. The President harshly attacked the North Korean regime, saying that "North Korea's reckless pursuit of nuclear missiles could very soon threaten our homeland. We are waging a campaign of maximum pressure to prevent that from happening."

Trump noted that the family of Otto Warmbier, a Jewish-American citizen who was kidnapped and held hostage in North Korea for more than a year, and died shortly after being released as a result of his detention conditions, were present at the address.

"Otto Warmbier was a hardworking student at the University of Virginia," Trump said. "On his way to study abroad in Asia, Otto joined a tour to North Korea. At its conclusion, this wonderful young man was arrested and charged with crimes against the state. After a shameful trial, the dictatorship sentenced Otto to 15 years of hard labor, before returning him to America last June, horribly injured and on the verge of death. He passed away just days after his return."

Parents of Otto Warmbier, Fred and Cindy Warmbier are acknowledged during the State of the Union address in the chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives January 30, 2018 in Washington, DC.
MARK WILSON/AFP