WASHINGTON - U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday criticized Japan and other countries for unfairly shouldering only a limited portion of the United States’ costs of defending them.
At a meeting with U.S. lawmakers and Cabinet members focusing on trade, Trump noted that the United States has backed the economic growth of many countries, including Japan, South Korea and Saudi Arabia.
“We defend” Japan, South Korea and Saudi Arabia, but “they pay us a fraction of what it costs,” he said. “We’re talking to all of those countries about that because it’s not fair that we defend them.”
This is a “separate argument” from trade, but a “real problem,” Trump said.
During the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign, Trump said that he would ask Japan to cover all the costs for stationing U.S. troops in the country.
However, he has held back from raising the issue since assuming the presidency in January last year.
But, as November’s midterm elections loom, Trump returned to the issue, taking a hardline stance against ally Japan and others during Tuesday’s meeting at the White House.
The Trump administration has also called on NATO countries to increase their defense spending, saying that member nations that fall short of the body’s spending target should cover past unpaid costs in some other way.