WASHINGTON – U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump has said he is open to the idea of both Japan and South Korea developing their own nuclear weapons and would be willing to withdraw U.S. troops from their soil, the New York Times reported in its online edition Saturday.
In an interview with the major U.S. newspaper, the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination said that allowing the two countries to have their own nuclear arsenal would reduce pressure in the United States to come to their defense against North Korea and China.
The United States “cannot be the policeman of the world,” Trump said and suggested that Tokyo and Seoul would move in that direction anyway if Washington “keeps on its path, its current paths of weakness.”
Asked if he would consider removing troops from Japan and South Korea unless the two countries paid more to cover the costs of housing and feeding them, Trump said “yes.” “I would not do so happily, but I would be willing to do it,” the New York businessman and billionaire said.
He also said he would seek to renegotiate many fundamental treaties with American allies, possibly including a 56-year-old security pact with Japan, which he described as “a pretty one-sided agreement.”
“We have to go out with full force” to defend Japan under the bilateral pact if the country comes under an armed attack, Trump noted. But he added, “If we’re attacked, they do not have to come to our defense.” “That’s a real problem.”
He also said, “We cannot afford to be losing vast amounts of billions of dollars on all of this.”
When an interviewer told him that Japan pays more for U.S. troops than any other country in the world, Trump said, “They do but still far less than it costs us.”
Trump also showed his tolerance of Japan and South Korea having their own nuclear arsenals for their protection from countries such as North Korea, saying that if the United States “keeps on its path, its current path of weakness, they’re going to want to have that anyway, with or without me discussing it.”
In the interview, Trump also stressed his “America first” policy and said that he would review the country’s relations with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and Arab nations such as Saudi Arabia.
Trump said he was not an isolationist, but described the United States as a poor debtor nation that disproportionately funds international alliances such as NATO and the United Nations.
Similarly lopsided relationships exist with allies such as Japan, South Korea and Saudi Arabia, he said.
“We have been disrespected, mocked and ripped off for many, many years by people that were smarter, shrewder, tougher,” he told The Times.
“So America first, yes, we will not be ripped off anymore. We’re going to be friendly with everybody, but we’re not going to be taken advantage of by anybody,” he said.
He also slammed President Barack Obama’s administration for seeking a political exit for Syrian President Bashar Assad while simultaneously fighting the Islamic State group as “madness and idiocy.”
“I’m not saying Assad is a good man, ’cause he’s not, but our far greater problem is not Assad, it’s ISIS,” he said.
The real estate developer said he would instead target the oil that provides a significant portion of the extremist group’s funding, cracking down on underground banking channels to cut off the flow of money.
Trump, who has repeatedly called for Middle Eastern allies to contribute boots on the ground in the fight against IS, said he would “probably” stop buying oil from countries like Saudi Arabia unless they did so or reimbursed the United States for its role in the fight.