(ATTN: UPDATES with Senators remarks in last 8 paras)
By Chang Jae-soon
WASHINGTON, April 8 (Yonhap) -- Nothing can be further from the truth than U.S. Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump's claims that the United States protects South Korea and other allies in exchange for almost nothing, a group of American experts said Friday.
Kathleen Hicks, Michael Green and Heather Conley of the Center for Strategic and International Studies made the case in a joint article contributed to Foreign Policy magazine, stressing that the value of a U.S. military presence in Asia and Europe outweighs its costs.
Trump has long made the unfounded point that the U.S. has been providing protection for wealthy nations like South Korea and Japan in exchange for little and should end such protection unless those countries agree to pay more.
He has even suggested allowing the Asian allies to go nuclear for self-defense.
"Despite claims by Trump and others to the contrary, the agreements the United States has negotiated with countries such as Germany, Japan, and South Korea to base our forces there are advantageous," the three experts said in the article.
"South Korea pays nearly $900 million, and Japan provides roughly $2 billion in yearly costs for forward-deployed U.S. forces. In fact, South Korea and Japan are paying $30 billion of the $37 billion in new facilities construction required for U.S. forces," they said.
The alternatives to forward basing are financially and strategically challenging, they said. One approach would be to find room to base U.S. forces currently in Japan, South Korea, and Europe - approximately 114,000 personnel - inside U.S. territory, forcing the United States to absorb the costs entirely, they added.
"Thus, even if host-nation support does not fully cover the costs of U.S. overseas basing, a forward American military presence is economically beneficial," the experts said. "An alternative is to cut all forward force structure from our military altogether, a strategically naive approach given current and projected challenges."
They also took the Korean War as an example, saying that the U.S. appeared in 1950 to write off defense of South Korea in Dean Acheson's infamous "perimeter speech," leading to the North attacking the South that summer. More than 36,000 American troops lost their lives in the war, they said.
"Washington must reward their efforts, not leave them in the lurch. The United States has spent the last 70 years building the most impressive international alliance structure and overseas facility posture in the world," they said.
"Now is not the time to casually and thoughtlessly toss this effort into the dustbin. Military alliances and overseas bases do cost money, but their value to America's national defense and economic prosperity is worth every penny," they added.
Last week, U.S. President Barack Obama also strongly criticized Trump for belittling the alliances with Japan and South Korea that he said were "one of the foundations, one of the cornerstones of our presence in the Asia-Pacific region."
Obama also said anybody who doesn't recognize how important such allies are shouldn't be president.
On Wednesday, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, issued a statement stressing the importance of allies in U.S. national security.
"America is safer and more secure because it has allies ... that are willing to step up and share the burden of collective security. In the Asia-Pacific, for example, South Korea contributes nearly $1 billion per year to pay for the cost of stationing American forces in the region," he said in the statement Wednesday.
"South Korean and American forces continue to provide a strong deterrent to North Korean aggression, and our two governments are working together to expand alliance cooperation in missile defense," he said.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) also strongly criticized Trump for his views of the alliances, saying the billionaire real estate mogul has been arguing for ending relations with NATO, South Korea and Japan only for the sake of money.
"Part of this economic growth that we’ve benefitted from would have never happened had the U.S. not helped Europe in the aftermath of the Second World War, would have never happened had there not been a NATO, would have never happened had there not been a U.S.-supporting South Korea for all those years," Rubio said.
Rubio also noted that the South's economy was even smaller than the North Korean economy, but has become the ninth-largest in the world and the country is a contributor to foreign aid, not a recipient. The South also contributes $800 million for the upkeep of 28,500 American troops stationed in the country, he said.
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