Sen. Cory Gardner listens to testimony on Capitol Hill, May 26, 2016. | Getty
Three Republican senators are reassuring U.S. allies in Asia and looking to mitigate the damage they believe Donald Trump is doing to important trans-Pacific relationships, further evidence that when it comes to the GOP’s presumptive nominee and America’s most critical allies, politics no longer end, so to speak, at the water’s edge.
Just as pressure is mounting on Republican elected officials to fall in line behind Trump, Sens. Joni Ernst of Iowa, Cory Gardner of Colorado and Dan Sullivan of Alaska are in South Korea undercutting Trump’s bluster with assurances that the U.S. is not about to renege on trade agreements or demand its allies pay more to support American forces on Korean soil.
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“Whether it is Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, we have an absolute commitment and resolve to growing our alliance with Korea, and there is no going back,” Gardner told the South Korean news agency Yonhap News on Wednesday.
Gardner, the only one of the three senators on the four-country Asia tour who has yet to officially endorse Trump, also assured South Korea, one of the most important U.S. allies in the region, that America has no intention to renegotiate trade agreements, regardless of Trump’s declarations that he will tear up the Trans-Pacific Partnership and negotiate a better deal for the U.S. as part of his “America first” foreign policy.
Ernst and Sullivan also apparently voiced disagreement with Trump’s assertion that South Korea doesn’t pay enough to keep 28,500 U.S. troops on its soil and asserted that Trump’s position on the matter is ill-informed and unlikely to be folded into the official Republican Party platform next month at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.
“Already the Republic of Korea bears the large brunt of what goes on in the Korean Peninsula,” Ernst said, according to the Yonhap report. “As we look at Europe and NATO, there are countries there that, yes, need to do more. They have not stepped up to that challenge yet. However, when you take a look at the Korean Peninsula, it’s a very different situation.”
Trump’s threat to pull U.S. troops from South Korea if the country doesn’t pay more has raised alarms in Seoul, as has the businessman’s apparent willingness to speak directly with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un in an effort to halt the country’s acquisition of nuclear weapons.
Trump’s talk has already drawn praise from North Korea, where a state-operated propaganda site editorialized Wednesday that Trump is a “far-sighted” and “wise” presidential candidate who could be good for the North.