Donald Trump will not attend a session of the United Nations General Assembly in person when the body convenes next week in New York, yet another major event thrown off kilter by the coronavirus pandemic.
White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows made the announcement to reporters on Thursday evening, but suggested the president might address the assembly virtually.
Mr Trump has had a rocky experience addressing the General Assembly, using his first address in 2017 to echo his Inauguration Day speech from that January, which warned of “American carnage.” His UN speech months later cast the world as a “righteous many” pit against a “wicked few.”
That unprecedented 2017 address featured a new American commander in chief threatening to “totally destroy” another country, North Korea.
The president told the General Assembly that the North Korean government “threatens the entire world with unthinkable loss of life.” He has since held two one-on-one summits with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, suggesting they share a mutual “love” for the other.
But Mr Kim has not given up his nuclear program and any atomic weapons or related delivery platforms, which was Mr Trump’s goal with his sabre-rattling.
At a campaign rally Thursday night in Wisconsin, Mr Trump boasted not that he has de-armed the North, but that he has averted a war. He claims if his predecessor, Barack Obama, was still in office the two countries would be in an armed conflict. (Mr Obama told Mr Trump during a 2017 Oval Office meeting that North Korea would be his biggest and most-pressing foreign policy challenge.)
The announcement Mr Trump will skip the UN meeting comes after the president this week told reporters he is delaying this year’s G7 meeting of world leaders until after the 3 November election. That also is a Covid-forced move.
"I'm much more inclined to do it sometime after the election," Mr Trump said. "We haven't sent out invitations. We're talking to them."
The president has talked of holding the G7 at Camp David and the White House. He also raised eyebrows when he suggested he intends to invite leaders of countries that are not part of the seven-country organisation.