President Obama’s aide tells media supporting nuclear proliferation in any capacity would destroy decades-long doctrine.
The White House on Thursday lambasted Donald Trump’s suggestion that Asian allies should develop nuclear weapons, saying it would shatter doctrine held for decades, with “catastrophic” consequences.
Following the Republican frontrunner’s declaration that, as president, he would withdraw troops from South Korea and Japan and allow those two countries to develop nukes, Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes offered a scathing rebuke. “The entire premise of American foreign policy as it relates to nuclear weapons for the last 70 years has been focused on preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons,” said Rhodes, one of President Barack Obama’s closest aides. “That has been the position of bipartisan administrations, of everybody who has occupied the Oval Office. It would be catastrophic for the United States to shift its position and indicate that we somehow support the proliferation of nuclear weapons.”
The remarks—coming during a top-level nuclear security summit in Washington—are yet another sign of how much Trump’s rhetoric on the campaign trail is bleeding into America’s relations with the rest of the world.
Once dismissed out of hand, Trump’s strong showing in the polls has forced diplomats to take his positions increasingly seriously as he gets within striking distance of the Republican presidential nomination.
President Barack Obama has admitted that foreign leaders often ask about the shrill tone of the 2016 campaign to replace him.
Rhodes insisted that the U.S. treaty obligations to defend Japan and South Korea were “rock solid.” The agreements, forged from the embers of the Korean War, have defined East Asian geopolitics for generations, projecting U.S. power across the Pacific.
There are nearly 30,000 U.S. troops permanently stationed in South Korea and 47,000 in Japan, with little appetite for nuclear weapons in either nation.
Japan is widely seen as having the know-how to produce nuclear arms but, as the only country to have suffered an atomic attack, public opinion is strongly opposed to such a move.