Donald Trump

Trump denies saying Japan and South Korea should acquire nuclear weapons

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 15 November, 2016, 2:27pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 15 November, 2016, 10:25pm

US President-elect Donald Trump has denied suggesting that countries such as Japan and South Korea should go nuclear, while an aide to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrived in Washington to prepare for a meeting Thursday between Trump and Abe in New York.

Referring to a New York Times article published Sunday, Trump tweeted the same day that the paper said Trump “believes ‘more countries should acquire nuclear weapons.’ How dishonest are they. I never said this!”

In March, The New York Times reported that the then Republican presidential candidate said in an interview that he would be open to allowing Japan and South Korea to develop their own nuclear arsenal.

If the United States keeps on “its path, its current path of weakness, they’re going to want to have that anyway, with or without me discussing it,” Trump was quoted as saying.

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The comment was taken to indicate that he would tolerate Tokyo and Seoul building their own nuclear weapons rather than depending on the US nuclear umbrella for their defence against North Korea and China.

That same month Trump shocked nuclear policy experts by suggesting at a town hall meeting that the United States might be able to reduce the defence budget by encouraging its allies, especially Japan and South Korea, to build nuclear weapons. When pressed to clarify his comments by the moderator, CNN’s Anderson Cooper, Trump replied: “Wouldn’t you rather in certain sense have Japan have nuclear weapons when North Korea has nuclear weapons?”

Earlier that same week, Trump told Bloomberg’s Mark Halperin that it was important to remain “unpredictable” when dealing with nuclear weapons.

On Monday, Katsuyuki Kawai, a special adviser to Abe, met with William Studeman in Washington, a former director of the National Security Agency who is believed to have close ties with Trump.

Speaking to reporters after the talks, Kawai said he conveyed Abe’s willingness to “swiftly build the highest level of relationship of personal trust with the president-elect.”

“There will be no leaders in the world who the president-elect can count on as much as Prime Minister Abe,” he said.

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Kawai, however, said he did not talk with Studeman about specific issues such as Trump’s demand that Japan increase its share of the costs for US troops stationed in the country and his pledge to withdraw the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a yet-to-be ratified free trade agreement involving 12 Pacific Rim countries.

Abe said on Monday that Japan and the United States shall share in an “appropriate” way the costs of US troops stationed in Japan.

Abe told a session at Japan’s upper house of parliament that as the United States also benefit from stationing its troops in Japan, the costs shall be shared between the two countries.

Japanese Defence Minister Tomomi Inada said last week that she believed Japan was paying enough for the cost of the US forces being stationed here.

Tokyo pays nearly 200 billion yen (US$1.9 billion) a year, or about 75 per cent of the costs, for the 50,000 US troops stationed in Japan, according to local reports.

Additional reporting by The Washington Post and Xinhua