Trump’s Asian views are rebutted

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Trump’s Asian views are rebutted

The U.S. State Department shot down suggestions by Republican front-runner Donald Trump that Korea and Japan could have nuclear weapons and American troops could be withdrawn from both countries if he becomes president.

“Nothing’s changed,” said State Department spokesman John Kirby in a press briefing Monday, about “the seriousness with which we take our treaty commitments to Japan and to South Korea.”

Kirby also added that nothing has changed about Washington’s view of “what the future of the Korean Peninsula needs to look like in terms of denuclearization.”

The spokesman responded to Trump’s Saturday interview with the New York Times on foreign policy, in which the real estate tycoon said he is open to South Korea and Japan having their own nuclear arsenals in response to North Korea’s threat and would consider withdrawing American troops if they do not pay up for defense.

Kirby said that Washington maintains its view that both South Korea and Japan are “very, very important bilateral relationships.”

Washington analysts and officials have voiced concern about Trump’s remarks putting U.S. national security at risk.

His remarks alarmed international analysts and local observers, who felt Trump lacked awareness of foreign policy and security issues in the region.

U.S. Ambassador to Korea Mark Lippert said to the American Chamber of Commerce on Monday at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Seoul, “Korea does very well in terms of its contribution” to the cost of keeping troops on the peninsula.

He adding that Washington feels “very good about the resource sharing” and “the burden sharing we’re engaged in.”

Trump has insisted that South Korea paid “peanuts” for the upkeep of some 28,500 U.S. troops stationed in Korea.

Lippert, while not directly referring to Trump, added that Seoul shoulders 55 percent of all non-personnel costs and is increasing its defense spending by 3 to 5 percent annually.

The top U.S. envoy went on to describe the two countries’ military alliance as “effective” and one of the top in the world.

The South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs also responded to concerns about Trump’s remarks.

“The current U.S. government, Congress and its people recognize our efforts as an allied country,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho June-hyuck in a briefing Tuesday, adding Korea has done its share in contributing to “maintaining and strengthening the U.S.-Korea alliance.”

In regard to South Korea developing its own nuclear arsenal, Cho added, “Our government holds a consistent and firm position on the issue on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”

The spokesman said the Korean government is “closely monitoring” the U.S. presidential campaign and the candidates’ foreign policies.

“In the future, we will work at building networks with the camps of major candidates, including Trump, and form a group of experts that can offer advice on foreign affairs and security.”

Through such contact with Trump’s supporters, Cho added, “We are conducting outreach efforts to figure out each candidate’s policy toward the Korean Peninsula and the Northeast Asia region and also convey our position on foreign policy, and we continue to plan on doing so.”

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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