President Donald Trump criticized America’s allies in Asia Wednesday, accusing them of enjoying our security guarantees while taking advantage of America on trade.
“We have a very big trade deficit with them, and we protect them,” Trump asserted at a fundraising speech. “We lose money on trade, and we lose money on the military. We have right now 32,000 soldiers between North and South Korea. Let’s see what happens.”
“Our allies care about themselves. They don’t care about us,” the president added.
Trump’s comments come as the U.S. and South Korea are re-negotiating a free trade deal that the president believes is not in the best interest of the U.S. and ahead of a possible summit meeting between Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.
The U.S. has approximately 28,500 military personnel stationed in South Korea, although the number occasionally spikes to around 32,000 during troop rotations and joint military exercises, U.S. Forces Korea told the Stars and Stripes.
The president’s comments are reminiscent of campaign trail criticisms Trump repeatedly hurled at allies like South Korea and Japan.
“We defend Japan … We defend South Korea … We defend countries,” he said during the first presidential debate. “They do not pay us what they should be paying us, because we are providing a tremendous service and we’re losing a fortune.”
“It is very possible that if they don’t pay us,” he added. “They may have to defend themselves or they have to help us out.”
South Korea’s financial contribution to the U.S. forces on the Korean Peninsula is around $890 million a year, which works out to roughly half the total cost. Seoul is also covering the cost for a new Army base.
Nonetheless, the president remains frustrated by persistent trade imbalances.
Trump’s recent decision to tariff washing machines and solar panels hit South Korea hard, and Seoul has been critical of the new steel and aluminum tariffs, as South Korea is America’s third largest steel supplier.
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