WASHINGTON, Jul. 23 (Korea Bizwire) — U.S. Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump has apparently criticized South Korea for relying on the U.S. for its defense while making a lot of money.
Trump made the remark during a campaign speech in South Carolina on Tuesday, mentioning South Korea apparently as a nation similar to Saudi Arabia that he accused of enjoying a security free ride on U.S. taxpayers’ money while giving “nothing” in return.
“I like the Saudis … They buy all sorts of my stuff, all kinds of toys from Trump. They pay me millions and hundreds of millions. But you know what? They make a billion dollars a day, folks, and whenever they’re in trouble, our military takes care. You know we get nothing,” he said.
“South Korea,” he said before a member of the audience apparently shouted “crazy.”
“Who said that? Stand up, stand up. He said it’s crazy. It’s true! It’s true! It’s crazy. They make a billion dollars a day,” Trump said.
Trump did not elaborate on South Korea, but in 2011, ahead of the 2012 presidential election, he made a similar remark that the U.S. is protecting South Korea, but “they don’t pay us.”
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 2014 for the upkeep of the U.S. troops, 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.
Trump, a billionaire real estate mogul, has emerged as a leading candidate for the Republican presidential nomination for next year’s election as he made a series of unbridled remarks on sensitive issues that apparently struck a chord with conservatives.