News / USA

    Trump’s Asia Security Criticisms Set Off Talk of Nuclear Arms Race

    Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign event in the atrium of the Old Post Office Pavilion, soon to be a Trump International Hotel, March 21, 2016, in Washington.
    Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign event in the atrium of the Old Post Office Pavilion, soon to be a Trump International Hotel, March 21, 2016, in Washington.
    Brian Padden

    Donald Trump, the front-running U.S. presidential candidate for the Republican Party, is not winning a lot of friends among America’s key allies in Asia after criticizing their contributions to regional security and suggesting they develop their own nuclear arsenals.

    In an interview with The New York Times, the Republican front-runner called for a complete reassessment of longstanding U.S. security pacts with Japan and South Korea.

    Trump has in the past criticized both Asian allies as “free-riders” for paying Washington too little for contributing 50,000 American troops in Japan and 28,500 in South Korea to maintain peace and security.

    Saying the U.S. “cannot afford to be losing vast amounts of billions of dollars” to support peace and security in the region, Trump told the newspaper he would also consider withdrawing troops if Tokyo and Seoul did not agree to increase security reimbursements to Washington.

    Trump said he would be open to allowing Japan and South Korea to build nuclear weapons to defend themselves against potential nuclear threats from North Korea and China, adding, “if the United States keeps on its path, its current path of weakness, they’re going to want to have that anyway.”

    Trump’s position has drawn harsh rebukes from officials and analysts who say such radical changes would greatly undermine U.S. credibility and alliances in the region, would likely lead to a nuclear arms race in Asia and would undercut international efforts to pressure North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons.

    “It would be extremely damaging and plays right into the hands of the hardliners in Pyongyang,” said Daniel Pinkston, a lecturer in international relations with Troy University in Seoul.

    FILE - South Korean army soldiers watch a TV news program with a file footage about North Korea's rocket launch at Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Feb. 7, 2016.
    FILE - South Korean army soldiers watch a TV news program with a file footage about North Korea's rocket launch at Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Feb. 7, 2016.

    Negative reactions

    Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga on Monday rejected any suggestion that Japan might develop its own nuclear arsenal, saying, “The three non-nuclear principles of not producing, possessing or allowing nuclear weapons on Japanese territory are an important basic policy of the government.”

    Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government, however, has been working to expand the country’s defense posture, and Trump’s comments about withdrawing from Asia could reinforce the need for a stronger Japanese military.

    South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman Moon Sang-kyun said Monday it would be inappropriate to comment on U.S. presidential candidates other than to say the Republic of Korea (ROK) supports the security arrangements that have been in place with Washington since the Korean War in the 1950s.

    “That alliance between the Republic of Korea and the United States is firmly being maintained by the ROK-U.S. Mutual Defense Agreement. There is no change in this position and principle,” he said.

    After North Korea conducted its fourth nuclear test in January, some lawmakers in Seoul called for the development of a South Korean nuclear deterrent as well.

    The President Park Geun-hye government, however, has rejected the need for nuclear weapons, relying instead on the protection of the U.S. nuclear deterrent guaranteed under its security alliance with Washington.

    FILE - South Korean President Park Geun-Hye cheers with new military officers during a military commissioning ceremony at Gyeryongdae, South Korea's main military compound, March 4, 2016
    FILE - South Korean President Park Geun-Hye cheers with new military officers during a military commissioning ceremony at Gyeryongdae, South Korea's main military compound, March 4, 2016

    US security interests

    The Republican presidential candidate said he is not an isolationist, but wants to put the interests of “America first.”

    Critics say the successful businessman and author of the book The Art of the Deal is not considering how U.S. economic and strategic interests have benefited from the American military presence in Asia.

    Nor they say has he considered how a U.S. withdrawal and nuclear arms race would damage American interests, alliances and increase the potential for nuclear conflict.

    “If you think ahead a couple of moves and you think of the consequences of such an action it really doesn’t make any sense,” Pinkston said.

    Some South Korean newspapers have called Trump's comments dangerous and shocking.

    The South Korean English-language newspaper JoongAng Daily on Monday ran a strongly worded editorial criticizing Trump, calling his views “myopic” and “utterly short-sighted.”

    Japan’s Yomiuri Shimbun daily quoted an unnamed source saying, "If he becomes the U.S. president, it would be a problem for the Japan-U.S. national security system."

    Youmi Kim in Seoul contributed to this report.

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Devon (baltimore, MD)
    April 02, 2016 9:59 AM
    OK and putting criminal minded Hillary in office is safer? She an Obama sold there souls to the devil long ago and are trying and succeeding at selling our country to for the right price and power. They are bankrupting the nation. Wake up any of us would be in prison for the things they have done. Do you really think she will change just because she's president? Hillary is bought like Obama and we this country can't take any more!

    by: Marcus Aurelius II from: NJ USA
    March 29, 2016 5:25 AM
    Just in case nobody noticed there is already a nuclear arms race in Asia. The only contestant who is running the race is North Korea. It's potential victims haven't even accepted that they will have to get to the starting line and start running or the day will come when North Korea's nuclear blackmail will be unstoppable.

    It is not the President's job to win friends, it is his job to look out for America's interests. For the last 70 years American taxpayers have been largely paying the bill to defend so called allies. Of course they won't like it when they have to pay the cost to defend themselves or at least pay the US for it. That means they'll have less money to spend on other things....and Americans will have more. Now that's what I call looking out for America's interests.
    In Response

    by: meanbill from: USA
    March 29, 2016 7:09 AM
    [Think about it?] .. Remember that the US developed nuclear weapons to protect themselves and win the war against Germany and the little islanders of the rising sun in WW2, and after Hiroshima and Nagasaki the Russians, China and North Korea developed nuclear weapons to protect their countries from the US nuclear weapons, and Pakistan and India developed nuclear weapons to protect themselves from each other?

    If countries (other than the US) didn't fear attacks from more powerful countries (like the US and NATO) possessing nuclear weapons, then they wouldn't have needed to develop defensive nuclear weapons to defend their countries from them, would they have had? .. FEAR of an attack from a nuclear armed country, makes the other nonnuclear countries try to develop defensive nuclear weapons too? .. Look for nonnuclear countries (like Iran) that fear attacks from nuclear countries (like the US and NATO) to try and develop nuclear weapons to defend their country in the future?

    by: Bob from: USA
    March 28, 2016 5:50 PM
    The implication is that the Asian countries, et al, are now listening to someone from the US in foreign affairs, after almost 8 years of incompetence and disarray. It also implies that if Hillary is elected, it will be more of the same and the US won't be able to lead the Free World anymore because each country will have to go its own way.

    by: Donald Fraser Miles from: Elliot Lake, Canada
    March 28, 2016 8:22 AM
    The "Trump problem" is part of a total problem with Western and even world politics. If a container of water continually leaks water, you may need to fill it but the most sensible thing to do is to plug the leak. It's not totally clear what the contributing problem is that is causing the mayhem globally. Trump is the American symptom. Rising fascism in Europe is another symptom.

    As for nuclear weapons in Asia, I expect Japan will go ahead with their own mass destruction weapon sometime in the near future whatever that may be. It could be an electric charge weapon not a nuclear weapon but that is unknown in fact to me. South Korea will follow Japan in weapon's development if the US elects Trump. My advice is to identify the "leak" or problem and fix it. We're fishing without a worm on our hook right now.

    by: Mark from: Virginia
    March 28, 2016 7:07 AM
    ...and you Trump supporters still thing this is a rational man..? Trump is deranged, he is dangerous, he is in no shape whatsoever to lead this country as President and Commander-in-Chief.

    If we want to move forward through the 21st Century, Trump is not the man to do it.
    In Response

    by: Mark from: Virginia
    March 29, 2016 7:25 AM
    While I agree with most of your assessment of Obama's lack of leadership fortitude, I do have one opinion on this matter. Obama was a non-threatening President (inefficient, incompetent perhaps, but non-threatening), we still have allies around the world that are willing to work with us. With Trump at the helm of this country, and his lack of filter between brain and mouth, we will lose those allies in short order. The tactics that served Trump in the boardroom will not serve his as well in the Oval Office. He is insulting, offensive and with no tact, he may very well get 'things done' but the administrative wreckage and the crushed toes from those he stepped on to the those 'things done' will be immense.

    As far as IS goes, regardless of who's fault it was that helped bring these killers to the forefront, they are now a global threat, and it is not for America alone to defeat them. America cannot, will not, be the only country running the ball. If Obama is indecisive about how to face the Islamic State, then it is the majority of the world leaders who are even more adamantly opposed to taking any action. You cannot lay the blame for this entirely at Obama's feet, the responsibility of this is not Obama's alone to bear. This is a global matter, not America's alone.

    Domestically, this country has been divided sine the Lincoln War (aka the Civil War). It has been in far worse shape before Obama came along, and will be no better off once Obama leaves office.
    In Response

    by: meanbill from: USA
    March 28, 2016 9:16 AM
    IF the US survives the Obama presidency, then the US will survive any president afterwards? .. Obama had no experience or expertise whatsoever in anything (the economy, foreign affairs, war or fighting terrorists), that he should have had knowledge of as president, and it seems that we'll survive him? .. One thing Trump will do that Obama wouldn't do, he will tell any of the department head incompetents in the government "Your fired" and find somebody competent to do the job they couldn't do no matter what their race or gender is?

    The next president will inherit the most divided country since the "Lincoln War" with the US still fighting proxy wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Yemen, and with the terrorists that have become a real world power now, and threatening to become a real super power soon if not checked or defeated? .. NO president, could do worse than Obama? .. The terrorists have multiplied a thousand fold and spreading allover the world attacking everybody, and even have a Caliphate, while the US commander in chief Obama watched?

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