Letters to the Editor: Trump should be pleased with military buildups in Japan and South Korea

South Korean soldiers
South Korean soldiers watch the North Korean side of the demilitarized zone from the observation post near the border village of Panmunjom.
(Lee Jin-man / Associated Press)

To the editor: No serious Asia analyst believes that President Trump’s cost-sharing requests on South Korea and Japan are reasonable or likely. But a U.S. demand for Seoul and Tokyo to take primary responsibility for their own defense is certainly realistic.

Unfortunately, the administration is focusing far more energy on milking the two Asian powers for money rather than encouraging both countries to continue investing in their own military.

South Korea in particular is making steady strides toward that objective. Seoul’s defense budget increased by 7% in 2018 and is projected to grow by $239 billion over the next five years. Washington should be solidly supportive of these investments. A more capable South Korea is in the national security interests of both Seoul and Washington.


Likewise, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has spent his tenure building a Japan that can quickly defend itself in multiple contingencies. While the White House should applaud those efforts, Japan needs to do a more adequate job of bolstering its anti-access, area-denial capability. Additional coastal defenses would not only enhance Japan’s defense in a rough neighborhood, but also help the U.S. fulfill a national defense strategy tailor-made for an era of great power competition.

Genuine and effective burden-sharing is not measured by the amount of cash given to the U.S., but rather how much responsibility our allies shoulder.

Daniel R. DePetris, New York

The writer is a fellow at Defense Priorities.