Donald Trump gives thumbs up while on his way to the podium before his acceptance address for the Republican nomination for President
Donald Trump, the presidential candidate for the US Republican Party, has once again mentioned the possibility of withdrawing US troops from South Korea while arguing that a missile defense system is useless for blocking North Korean missiles.
“We’ve had [missile defenses in Japan] for a long time, and now they’re practically obsolete, in all fairness,” Trump said in an interview with the New York Times. “We’re losing a tremendous amount of money.”
The interview took place on July 20 in Cleveland during the Republican national convention.
Trump was responding to a remark by a New York Times reporter that “those missile defenses help prevent the day when North Korea can reach the United States with one of its missiles” and that North Korean missiles would be “easier to shoot down from [Japan].”
Trump’s remarks came in the middle of an argument with New York Times reporters about the effectiveness of stationing US troops in South Korea. This suggests that a Trump administration might reconsider the Obama administration’s efforts to deploy the THAAD missile defense system in South Korea and to set up a trilateral missile defense pact with South Korea and Japan.
“I would prefer that we be able to continue [defending our allies], but if we are not going to be reasonably reimbursed for the tremendous cost of protecting these massive nations with tremendous wealth [. . .] I would be absolutely prepared to tell those countries, ‘Congratulations, you will be defending yourself,’” Trump said during the interview in response to a question about security and alliances.
The “massive nations with tremendous wealth” to which Trump referred presumably include not only Japan and countries in Europe but also South Korea.
When a New York Times reporter argued for the effectiveness of the alliance by pointing out that war had broken out in Korea in 1950 when US troops were not present, Trump countered by saying that even if troops are stationed there, “There’s no guarantee that we’ll have peace in Korea.”
“In the meantime, what have we done? [. . .] We’ve let North Korea get stronger and stronger and more nuclear and more nuclear. [. . .] North Korea now is almost like a boiler. You say we’ve had peace, but that part of Korea, North Korea, is getting more and more crazy. [. . .] And they are testing missiles all the time,” Trump continued.
“In a deal, you always have to be prepared to walk,” Trump said, making clear that he means to use the threat of withdrawing American troops to pressure US allies like South Korea to contribute more to the cost of stationing those troops.
The first time that Trump mentioned the idea of demanding to renegotiate the cost sharing agreement and pulling out American troops was in March. Since then, his advisors on foreign policy have tried to downplay Trump’s remarks by arguing that they do not necessarily mean withdrawing American troops.
By Yi Yong-in, Washington correspondent
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