Obama Says Trump's Nuclear Arms Remarks Show Lack of Knowledge


President Barack Obama speaks on April 1, 2016, in Washington.

Photographer: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images
  • President says issue arose in talks during nuclear summit
  • Trump said Japan, South Korea might develop own nuclear arms

President Barack Obama said recent statements by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump about letting South Korea and Japan have their own nuclear arsenals demonstrate he doesn’t know much about foreign policy “or the world generally.”

Trump has suggested he’d be willing to overturn decades of U.S. security policy by considering withdrawing U.S. troops from Japan and South Korea if the countries don’t pay substantially more for defense help and that they may need to develop their own nuclear weapons.

The comments have gotten wide play in both countries and Obama, in response to a question at a news conference concluding a U.S.-led nuclear security summit, said it was a topic of conversations he had on the sidelines of the meeting.

“People pay attention to American elections. What we do is really important to the rest of the world,” Obama said, without mentioning Trump by name. Even nations where elections sometimes have a carnival-like atmosphere “want sobriety and clarity when it comes to U.S. elections.”

Barack Obama speaks with leaders at the Nuclear Security Summit on April 1.
Barack Obama speaks with leaders at the Nuclear Security Summit on April 1.
Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

The nuclear security summit convened by Obama in Washington is intended to stem the proliferation of nuclear material around the world and limit stockpiles of nuclear weapons. Obama administration officials have sought to assure Japan and South Korea that the U.S. won’t withdraw from the region. The president has made deeper U.S. engagement in Asia a central focus of his foreign policy.

“Our alliance with Japan and the Republic of Korea is one of the foundations, one of the cornerstones of our presence in the Asia-Pacific region,” Obama said. “We don’t want someone in the Oval Office who doesn’t recognize how important that is.”

Trump first suggested that Japan and South Korea might need to have their own nuclear arsenals in an interview last week with the New York Times. He reaffirmed his stance this week when asked about it at a CNN town hall.

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