Trump insists S. Korea is getting free ride from US

October 12, 2015
Donald Trump (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

Donald Trump (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

By Chang Jae-soon

WASHINGTON (Yonhap) — U.S. Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump insisted Monday that South Korea is getting a free ride in defense from the United States, claiming the contribution Seoul pays for the upkeep of American troops is “peanuts,” compared with what the U.S. spends.

Trump made the remark during a campaign speech in New Hampshire after an audience member pointed out that it’s inaccurate to claim that South Korea pays nothing for the U.S. defending the country and that Seoul paid more than US$860 million last year to help with the upkeep of U.S. troops stationed in the country.

“It’s peanuts compared to what it’s costing. It’s peanuts,” Trump said in response.

“They are a very wealthy country … We are defending Germany, we are defending Japan, we are defending South Korea, we’re defending so many countries, we get peanuts. We get nothing. We get a — you’re right. We get a small payment. It’s a fraction, a tiny fraction,” he said.

Trump has repeatedly accused South Korea of relying on the U.S. for its defense while giving the U.S. nothing in return even though the country makes a lot of money.

In July, he said that whenever South Korea “is in trouble, our military takes care. You know we get nothing.” In August, Trump also said that South Korea is making a fortune, but the U.S. sends its troops to defend the Asian ally in exchange for “nothing.”

In Monday’s speech, Trump stressed South Korea is making a lot of money.

“I ordered 4,000 television sets recently for a big project. They all come from South Korea. My only bidder was South Korea, except for Sony, which is in Japan, and they lost their way, OK?” Trump said. “My only bidder — whether it’s LG or whether it’s Samsung — these are wealthy countries. We have 28,000 soldiers on the border of South Korea.”

Trump made similar criticism of Germany and Japan as well.

“We defend Germany, which is sending cars and everything over there … it’s an economic behemoth.” Trump said. “We defend Japan, and we have to defend them with our lives. If anybody attacks Japan, we have an agreement, we have to go and attack and fight and die and spend. But if anybody attacks us, Japan doesn’t have to do a thing. That’s the way we run things.”

Trump said the reason why the U.S. has huge defense budget is because “we’re defending all these countries.”

“It’s not helping us. So we are going to change things around, and we’re going to make America great again. Believe me,” he said.

Trump’s criticism shows his ignorance about American security interests and policy.

About 28,500 U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea to help defend the Asian ally from the communist North, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War that ended in a truce, not a peace treaty, which left the divided peninsula still technically at war.

Seoul has long shared the cost of stationing U.S. forces.

Last year, the two countries renewed their cost-sharing agreement, known as the Special Measures Agreement, with Seoul agreeing to pay 920 billion won (US$886 million) for the upkeep of the U.S. troops in 2014, a 5.8 percent increase from a year earlier.

Moreover, the American military presence on the peninsula is seen as in line with U.S. national interests in a region marked by a rising China.