U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said Friday he will continue to defend South Korea, but wants the Asian ally to pay more for American defense support.
Speaking on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," Trump also said that he's willing to hold talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, but won't go to the communist nation.
"As far as Japan and South Korea are concerned, all I'm saying is we defend them. They are paying us a tiny fraction of what it's costing. I want them to pay," Trump said. "I would love to continue to defend Japan. I would love to continue to defend South Korea. We have 28,000 soldiers on the line between North and South Korea right now."
Trump has unnerved foreign countries, especially such allies as South Korea and Japan, as he has displayed deeply negative views of U.S. security commitments overseas, contending the U.S. should stop being the policeman of the world.
The real-estate tycoon has said that the U.S. should be prepared to end protection of allies unless they pay more. He even suggested allowing South Korea and Japan to develop their own nuclear weapons for self-defense so as to reduce U.S. security burdens.
"We are not a country that can afford to defend Saudi Arabia, Germany, the NATO nations, 28 NATO nations, many of which are not paying us and they're not living up to their agreement," Trump said on MSNBC. "Japan, South Korea, nobody, we're like the dummies that protect everybody. All I'm saying is, we have to get reimbursed because we can't afford it."
South Korea currently pays about half the costs, about US$900 million a year, to help finance the troop presence. U.S. officials, including new U.S. Forces Korea Commander Vincent Brooks, said it would cost more to keep those troops stationed in the U.S. than it does in Korea.
Trump's top foreign policy adviser, Walid Phares, said in a recent interview with Yonhap News Agency that Trump's remarks made as a candidate should be taken as an expression of principles, rather than policy, meaning that such extreme scenarios as troop pullout are only for negotiation purposes.
Maximizing U.S. interests through negotiation is the No. 1 point in Trump's "America First" foreign policy. Trump and aides have repeatedly emphasized the businessman is an excellent negotiator and is ready to use the skill to regain American interests lost under Democratic administrations.
Earlier this week, Trump even expressed a willingness to negotiate with North Korea's leader, saying in a media interview, "I would speak to him. I would have no problem speaking to him."
The remark also sparked criticism that a meeting with the North would end up bolstering the dictator.
On Friday, Trump insisted that he would talk to the North, but added that does not mean he's willing to go to the North.
"I wouldn't go to North Korea," he said. "The last thing I do is go. I would never go to North Korea. I don't know who would say I would go there."
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said it would be a "big mistake" for Trump to meet with the North's leader.
"Because every other dictator in the world is going to look at you differently. The last thing you want to do is empower this guy in North Korea," Graham said on CNN. "I think it would be a mistake for the president of the United States to meet directly with this butcher." (Yonhap)