U.S. Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump took aim at American ally South Korea for enjoying a “free ride” – calling Seoul’s contribution to the presence of American troops “peanuts.”
It got started during a campaign speech in New Hampshire after an audience member pointed out that Trump and others are wrong to claim that South Korea pays nothing for the U.S. defending the country –saying that Seoul paid more than $860 million last year.
“It’s peanuts compared to what it’s costing. It’s peanuts,” Trump said in response.
“They are a very wealthy country … We are defending Germany, we are defending Japan, we are defending South Korea, we’re defending so many countries, we get peanuts. We get nothing. We get a — you’re right. We get a small payment. It’s a fraction, a tiny fraction,” he said.
Some excerpts from The Donald:
“I ordered 4,000 television sets recently for a big project. They all come from South Korea. My only bidder was South Korea, except for Sony, which is in Japan, and they lost their way, OK?”
“My only bidder — whether it’s LG or whether it’s Samsung — these are wealthy countries. We have 28,000 soldiers on the border of South Korea.”
“We defend Germany, which is sending cars and everything over there … it’s an economic behemoth. We defend Japan, and we have to defend them with our lives. If anybody attacks Japan, we have an agreement, we have to go and attack and fight and die and spend. But if anybody attacks us, Japan doesn’t have to do a thing. That’s the way we run things.”
Trump said the excessive American defense budget is due to the fact, as he sees it, that “we’re defending all these countries.”
“It’s not helping us. So we are going to change things around, and we’re going to make America great again. Believe me,” he said.
Yonhap: Trump is ignorant
Yonhap, Korea’s largest news agency, didn’t take too kindly to Trump’s remarks. Veering into editorializing, they wrote:
Trump’s criticism shows his ignorance about American security interests and policy.
About 28,500 U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea to help defend the Asian ally from the communist North, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War that ended in a truce, not a peace treaty, which left the divided peninsula still technically at war.
Seoul has long shared the cost of stationing U.S. forces.
Last year, the two countries renewed their cost-sharing agreement, known as the Special Measures Agreement, with Seoul agreeing to pay 920 billion won (US$886 million) for the upkeep of the U.S. troops in 2014, a 5.8 percent increase from a year earlier.
Moreover, the American military presence on the peninsula is seen as in line with U.S. national interests in a region marked by a rising China.
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