U.S. Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump on Monday called again for the country’s security arrangement with Japan to be renegotiated, saying Washington’s allies should pay a higher price for their defense.
Speaking to The Washington Post, Trump restated his belief that the U.S. is paying too much to protect other nations.
“We pay billions, hundreds of billions of dollars to supporting other countries that are in theory wealthier than we are,” he said.
Japan pays a considerable part of the costs of hosting American troops and equipment, roughly to the extent that it is no more costly for Washington to post personnel to Japan than to base them out of the U.S.
Japanese Defense Ministry figures show Tokyo budgeted ¥372.5 billion in fiscal 2015 for basic expenditure on U.S. forces, including on housing, rental of private land for bases and on the salaries of around 25,000 local-hire workers in roles ranging from maintenance engineers to staff at recreational facilities.
In fiscal 2015, Tokyo additionally budgeted ¥142.6 billion for the realignment of U.S. forces, including the relocation of U.S. Marines from Okinawa to Guam.
Trump’s position is that the costs outweigh any other benefits to Washington of having a major fighting force in the western Pacific.
It is a position he has held for decades. In September 1987, he paid for full-page advertisements in three leading U.S. newspapers that slammed American foreign policy, leveling stinging criticism at its relationship with Tokyo.
“Over the years, the Japanese, unimpeded by the huge costs of defending themselves (as long as the United States will do it for free), have built a strong and vibrant economy with unprecedented surpluses,” he said, in comments printed in the form of an open letter.
He continued: “It’s time for us to end our vast deficits by making Japan, and others who can afford it, pay. Our world protection is worth hundreds of billions of dollars to these countries, and their stake in their protection is far greater than ours.”
Defense policy analysts characterize Trump’s position as reflecting the instincts of a businessman rather than those of a foreign-policy tactician.
“Isolationists like Trump may say that we shouldn’t be defending any of those countries. But will they like an international order in which China’s shadow is cast over all of Asia?” wrote the Hoover Institution’s Kori Schaeke in a March 4 Op-Ed essay for foreignpolicy.com.
“He postures himself as a great dealmaker who would use other countries’ reliance on us to induce them to turn a profit for us. But his approach would instead sow insecurity and dramatically raise the costs to the United States.”