(CNSNews.com) – United States’ foreign aid should in the future “only go to friends of America, not enemies of America,” President Trump said in his State of the Union on Tuesday night, noting that many countries benefitting from U.S. aid vote against its interests at the United Nations.
During a relatively short section of the speech dealing with foreign policy, Trump recalled the negative U.N. reaction to his decision last month to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital – a position which he pointed out had been unanimously endorsed by the U.S. Senate just months earlier. (A Senate resolution calling on the president to “abide by” the provisions of the Jerusalem Embassy Act passed 90-0 on June 5.)
“Shortly afterwards, dozens of countries voted in the United Nations General Assembly against America’s sovereign right to make this decision,” Trump said.
“In 2016, American taxpayers generously sent those same countries more than $20 billion in aid. That is why, tonight, I am asking Congress to pass legislation to help ensure American foreign assistance dollars always serve American interests, and only go to friends of America, not enemies of America.”
It was one of many well-received lines in the president’s 90-minute address, and many Republicans in the House stood and cheered.
By a vote of 128 votes to nine, and with 35 countries abstaining, the General Assembly on Dec. 21 declared Trump’s Jerusalem policy stance “null and void” – after both he and U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley cautioned that countries’ positions could place U.S. foreign aid at risk.
As CNSNews.com has reported, some of the countries that receive the most assistance from the U.S. each year vote more often than not against positions held by the U.S. in General Assembly votes.
‘Depraved’ North Korean regime
In other foreign policy topics in Tuesday night’s speech, Trump lashed out at the “depraved” regime in North Korea, saying the U.S. was “waging a campaign of maximum pressure” to prevent Pyongyang from threatening the homeland with nuclear-capable missiles.
He paid tribute to three of the White House guests in attendance – Fred and Cindy Warmbier and disabled North Korean defector Ji Seong-ho.
The Warmbiers’ student son, Otto, died just days after he was released from a North Korean prison and returned home in a coma last June.
“You are powerful witnesses to a menace that threatens our world, and your strength truly inspires us all,” Trump told the Warmbiers. “Tonight we pledge to honor Otto’s memory with total American resolve.”
Ji escaped from his Stalinist homeland on crutches, and from his base in Seoul today helps other North Koreans to defect – and, Trump said, “broadcasts into North Korea what the regime fears most – the truth.”
Trump expressed support for the Iranian people in what he called their “struggle for freedom.”
“When the people of Iran rose up against the crimes of their corrupt dictatorship, I did not stay silent,” he declared. “America stands with the people of Iran in their courageous struggle for freedom.”
At least 23 Iranians were killed and almost 4,000 were detained during the fundamentalist regime’s crackdown on street protests that erupted in late December and spread across Iran in January.
On the fight against Islamic terrorism, Trump said the coalition has retaken almost all of the territory once held by ISIS jihadists in Syria and Iraq.
He then related a story about another White House SOTU guest, Army Staff Sergeant Justin Peck, who in Raqqa, Syria last November risked his life to save that of a Navy comrade in a hospital ISIS had rigged with explosives.
“Terrorists who do things like place bombs in civilian hospitals are evil. When possible, we have no choice but to annihilate them,” he said. “When necessary, we must be able to detain and question them.”
Trump said terrorists were not just criminals, but unlawful enemy combatants, and when captured abroad “should be treated like the terrorists they are.”
He criticized previous administrations for “foolishly” releasing hundreds of dangerous terrorists – including ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (who was imprisoned by U.S. forces in Iraq in 2005 but was later released.)
Trump announced that just prior to giving the speech he had directed Defense Secretary James Mattis “to re-examine our military detention policy and to keep open the detention facilities in Guantanamo Bay.”
Former President Obama came into office pledging to close the detention center at the U.S. Naval Base in Cuba and continued his predecessor’s policy of releasing detainees through a comprehensive review process.
But Obama left office a little over a year ago with 41 detainees still in the facility, and blaming “politics” for his inability to keep the campaign promise.
Trump briefly touched on Afghanistan, Russia and China. In the former case he said only that under new rules of engagement instituted several months ago, “along with their heroic Afghan partners, our military is no longer undermined by artificial timelines and we no longer tell our enemies our plans.”
And he described Russia and China as “rivals” which, along with rogue regimes and terrorist groups, “challenge our interests, our economy and our values.”