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Trump says U.S. will increase Iran pressure, accuses China of U.S. election meddling

At the UN Security Council, President Trump said the U.S. would pursue additional sanctions against Iran, declared support for the first time for creating a Palestinian state and accused China of meddling in the 2016 election. Nick Schifrin reports.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Back now to President Trump's day at the United Nations, where the focus was heavily on Iran.

    Our foreign affairs correspondent, Nick Schifrin, reports.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    One day after declaring disdain for global governance, President Trump walked into the U.N. Security Council, and the world's top diplomats hushed their voices.

    But in a room defined by decorum, a president who doesn't always stick to the script showed respect to tradition and stuck to the script.

  • President Donald Trump:

    The Security Council is called to order.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    This was Mr. Trump's first Security Council briefing, and he immediately targeted Iran.

  • President Donald Trump:

    The United States will pursue additional sanctions, tougher than ever before, to counter the entire range of Iran's malign conduct. Any individual or entity who fails to comply with these sanctions will face severe consequences.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    The U.S. is trying to pressure Iran to curb its ballistic missile program and regional proxies, such as Hezbollah, that attack Iran's enemies.

    To do so, the U.S. is pressuring Europeans for help. But the European Union's top diplomat this week announced new ways for Iran to avoid U.S. sanctions, and European leaders are criticizing the president's decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal they negotiated together, known as the JCPOA, then reimpose sanctions.

    French President Emmanuel Macron.

  • Emmanuel Macron (through translator):

    A serious crisis of confidence was opened by a reimposition of sanctions by the United States. But Tehran continues to abide by its nuclear obligations. We need to build together a long-term strategy in order to manage this crisis, and it cannot boil down to just sanctions and containment.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    And British Prime Minister Theresa May.

  • Theresa May:

    For many years, the scale and nature of Iran's nuclear program raised serious international concerns. The JCPOA was an important step forward in addressing these. It remains the best means of preventing Iran developing a nuclear weapon.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Iran promises to abide by the deal's nuclear limits. And, today, President Hassan Rouhani said the U.S. isolated itself from its allies.

  • Hassan Rouhani (through translator):

    We are not isolated, as a matter of fact. America is isolated. At the General Assembly, America was isolated. At the Security Council, America was isolated.

  • Benjamin Netanyahu:

    Mr. President, Donald, thank you.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    On Iran, the U.S. is aligned with Israel, and the president met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. But he suggested moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem will require Israeli accommodations and peace talks.

    And for the first time, he declared support for creating a Palestinian state next to Israel.

  • President Donald Trump:

    I like two-state solution. That's what I think works best. I don't even have to speak to anybody. That's my feeling. Now, you may have a different feeling. I don't think so. But I think two-state solution works best.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Mr. Trump said his diplomatic approach to North Korea is also working. In a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, he pulled out a letter from Kim Jong-un and said it was a sign that Kim, who has overseen a nuclear program and vast human rights abuses, is changing his stripes.

  • President Donald Trump:

    North Korea, under the leadership of Chairman Kim, has tremendous economic potential, tremendous. And I think that Chairman Kim sees that maybe better than anybody.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    And, today, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced he would go to Pyongyang next month, with the intention of setting up a second summit between President Trump and Kim Jong-un.

    And the president was asked why he would hold a second summit. He said, well, Kim asked for it. And he said that letter that he got, Judy, is a sign that the two sides are making progress.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, Nick, one other thing that president made news on today is, he said that China, China is meddling in the U.S. 2018 elections.

    Tell us more about what he said.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Yes, he hasn't said this before, certainly not on this scale and at this platform at the U.N., and he said this in the Security Council and at a press conference just a few minutes ago.

    He said that China was meddling in elections because, in his words, he was being tough on China economically. Now, he gave no details on that, both at — in the Security Council and at the press conference.

    And we asked a senior administration official about that, and he gave a few details on the phone. And we should say, these are not the kind of interference in the election that we saw in 2016 at all, one example, China courting politicians and farmers in states that voted for Trump.

    Now, I should say, Judy, China has invested in swing states and swing districts long before Trump became the president, in order to have some political influence.

    Second example, rewarding journalists and think tanks who are nice to China. Again, they have done that before Trump became president. Intimidating people who are critical of China. Again, they have done that before Trump became president. And ,lastly, using state media for propaganda against President Trump. Again, they did that before Trump became president.

    And what President Trump did not mention today, Judy, is Russia, which, according to the intelligence community in 2016, launched the hacking campaign into President Trump's opponent, distributed that information, and launched a disinformation campaign as well.

    And the intelligence community says that is ongoing in 2018. President Trump did not mention that at all today.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    No mention of it.

    A lot to keep track of.

    Nick Schifrin, covering the United Nations General Assembly for us this week, thank you, Nick.

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