Compiled and translated by Bing-sheng Lee
In an interview with the New York Times published on March 26, Donald Trump, the candidate for the Republican nomination for the US presidential election, talked extensively about his opinions on US foreign policies.
In the interview, Trump said he would consider withdrawing US troops from Japan and South Korea if the two Asian countries do not invest more money to support the troops’ accommodation and food.
Trump said, “I would not do so happily, but I would be willing to do it.”
Currently, Japan hosts approximately 50,000 US troops, including a sizable naval, Marine Corps and Air Force contingent, while 28,500 troops of mostly ground forces are in South Korea.
Trump also stated he would be open to allowing Japan and South Korea to establish their own nuclear weapons rather than depend on the US nuclear umbrella for their protection against North Korea and China.
Trump explained, “At some point, we cannot be the policeman of the world. And unfortunately, we have a nuclear world now.”
The Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan, which was originally signed in 1951 after World War II to hold the US troops responsible for the defense of Japan, regulate the deployment of the US military in Japan.
The US also has a mutual defense treaty with South Korea. Its troops in South Korea were established in 1957 in the wake of the Korean War and have since served to stabilize the military situation on the Korean Peninsula. They have also been a forward presence of the US government in the Asia-Pacific region.
Trump’s latest remarks, which are viewed as his most detailed discussion on foreign policy so far, directly contradict Washington’s long-held stance on nuclear non-proliferation in Northeast Asia.
The statements also deny the country’s strong commitment to safeguarding its two important allies, South Korea and Japan, by deploying troops.
Trump emphasized that while the US will be friendly to everyone, the country will not be exploited anymore.
Reactions to Trump’s opinions on foreign policy
Following the release of the report on Trump’s remarks regarding foreign policy, some major media outlets and political watchers in Asia reacted strongly to Trump’s stance.
JoongAng Ilbo, one of the three major newspapers in South Korea, writes, “His (Trump’s) remarks totally shake mutual trust, the most pivotal element in the alliance. If he ever becomes president, it will most likely affect the decades-old alliance between Seoul and Washington.”
Wen Wei Po, a Hong Kong newspaper, says, “Trump’s comments not only completely violate the international consensus of preventing the expansion of nuclear weapons, but use long-ago abandoned Cold War thinking to challenge the trend of peaceful development and harm stability in East Asia.”
Mitchell Blatt, an American columnist and freelance writer based in China, thinks that Trump just doesn’t know enough about foreign policy.
Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga says Japan will not change its policy of not developing or owning nuclear arsenals.
“Whoever becomes president, the Japan-United States alliance is the cornerstone of Japan’s foreign policy. We will work closely with the United States for the sake of the prosperity and security of the Asia-Pacific region and the world,” says Suga.
In response to Trump’s comments, political watchers in South Korea say that Trump has made similar statements about withdrawing U.S. troops from South Korea in the past.
“Trump may be hinting that he wants a renegotiation of the defense treaties with South Korea and Japan," a local source tells Yonhap News Agency.
Yet, Trump’s opinions on backing Seoul’s nuclear armament resonate with some local conservative lawmakers and political experts.
Won Yoo-chul, the ruling Saenuri Party floor leader, has advocated arming South Korea with nuclear weapons to counter the growing nuclear and missile threats from North Korea.
Cheong Seong-chang, a senior analyst at the Sejong Institute of South Korea and a leading proponent of the country’s arming itself with nuclear weapons, says he is in line with Trump’s thoughts.
Cheong says, “Now that the leading Republican candidate is talking about letting South Korea arm itself with nuclear weapons and withdrawing American troops from here, we should no longer avoid discussing nuclear armament as one of our survival strategies.”
Edited by Olivia Yang
“In Donald Trump’s Worldview, America Comes First, and Everybody Else Pays” (The New York Times)
“Comments by Donald Trump Draw Fears of an Arms Race in Asia” (The New York Times)
“Trump says S. Korea can have nukes, considers pulling out U.S. troops” (Yonhap News Agency)
“No, Trump’s not a Realist. He’s not anything, because he has no ideas.” (Bombs and Dollars)
“Trump details ‘America first’ foreign policy views, threatening to withdraw troops from Japan, South Korea” (The Japan Times)
“Trump open to South Korea’s nuclear armament” (The Korea Times)
“Donald Trump open to Japan and South Korea having nuclear weapons” (The Financial Times)