The Trump administration has embarked on a quiet bilateral campaign to extract more defense dollars from several countries, including South Korea and Saudi Arabia, saying they must pay more to fund American security missions and bases in their countries.
U.S. defense officials and diplomats last week wrapped up the latest round of negotiations with their South Korean counterparts, seeking to convince Seoul to subsidize costs tied to the tens of thousands of U.S. troops long stationed on the Korean Peninsula. For three days, American and South Korean negotiators discussed proposals for how much of the bill Seoul can afford to pay to support U.S. operations.
As with President Trump’s trade policies, the defense spending talks are a bid to put meat on the bones of the president’s “America First” foreign policy, and upend longstanding practices that Mr. Trump says burden American taxpayers while giving a pass to countries that can easily contribute more to their own safety.
The president’s unhappiness with some NATO allies over their failure to meet pledges on defense spending are well known, but administration officials say the campaign is even more broadly targeted.
“When you have wealthy countries like Saudi Arabia, like Japan, like South Korea, why are we subsidizing their military?” Mr. Trump asked at a September campaign rally in West Virginia. “They’ll pay us. The problem is nobody ever asks.”