One of the most controversial figures in the history of U.S. presidential elections, Donald Trump recently suggested in an interview with The New York Times that Japan and Korea, two of America’s strongest allies in Asia, build nuclear weapons so that the United States can withdraw troops. Trump believes the two are rich enough to pay for their own military expenses. As a result, the United States would not have to stay in the region.
According to the Washington Post, currently, the U.S. military has about 54,000 troops stationed in Japan and 28,500 in South Korea.
Both South Korea and Japan expressed deep bewilderment and concern. The Korea JoongAng Daily, one of South Korea’s largest newspaper, wrote in an editorial that it is “dumbfounded at such myopic views.” The spokesman for South Korea’s defense ministry, Moon Sang-gyun, said he had no comment on Trump’s suggestions. In Japan, both Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida responded to Trump’s suggestion in an attempt to reaffirm the country’s alliance with the United States. However, despite mainstream opinions on Trump’s remarks, some believed that South Korea could benefit from nuclear weapons. As reported in CNN, academic Cheong Seong-Chang from the non-profit think-tank the Sejong Institute, said, “If we have nuclear weapons, we’ll be in a much better position to deal with North Korea.”
Professor Victor Cha, Director of Asian Studies and the D.S. Song Chair in the Department of Government and School of Foreign Service, commented in an opinion piece on The Korea JoongAng Daily that U.S. presence in Asia is “profoundly in America’s interest,” and a U.S. withdrawal from the region will result in serious ramifications. He believes that as a pragmatist, once properly briefed, Trump will make the correct decision of keeping troops in the region.