Database: Donald Trump’s Skepticism of U.S. Troops in Korea Since 1990

This study sought to gather all of the publicly available statements made by Donald Trump on the utility of alliances and U.S. troop commitments abroad in an effort to test the proposition that the real estate mogul turned president has a transactional view of alliances as opposed to a deep appreciation of both the security and non-security benefits afforded by these relationships. We searched for campaign and political rallies, interviews and speeches, meetings, press conferences, television appearances, as well as social media posts to acquire this data. Second-hand accounts were also checked for references to these issues.1 2

A review of these statements shows:

  • Long before he became president and as far back as a 1990 Playboy interview, Trump has been skeptical of the utility of U.S. troop commitments to allies. This is a consistent theme throughout the last nearly three decades of 122 discrete public comments we have collected.
  • He believes that allies are free-riding off of U.S. security guarantees.
  • A consistent message is that allies need to pay more, if not all of the costs for U.S. forces, which will have implications for the next rounds of burden-sharing negotiations with Korea, NATO, and Japan.
  • He believes that allies, while enjoying the beneficence of American security guarantees also take advantage of the United States with large trading deficits.
  • There is little evidence of an appreciation of allies like Korea as serving U.S. interests in terms of common values, common global agendas, or common challenges and opportunities.

But the big culprits are other countries and what they are doing to us…You look as an example, South Korea. We are spending tremendous. We spend billions and billions of dollars to protect them from North Korea. They are not giving us anything. What are we doing? You know they are a competitor of ours. Hey they are wonderful people. We have had partners from South Korea. But why are we doing this all free? We are not in that position as a country. They should be paying us for this. We send all those aircraft carriers over. All those ships, the planes, the bombers. And we get nothing out of it. Except in all fairness, they take most of our business. They have made some unbelievable deals with our government. You know they are just taking our business. So why aren’t they paying for this kind of protection?

– April 5, 2013, interview with Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren3

Donald Trump's Statements/Tweets on Troop Commitments to the ROK since 1990


  1. Factbase on Donald Trump’s speeches, tweets, and policy statements. Available at:
  2. The authors wish to thank Young-Kyung Kim, intern in the Korea Chair, and Hee Young Kim for their invaluable research in support of this project.
  3. “Trump on the slowing economy, unemployment rate.” Fox News. 5 April 2013.