President Donald Trump on Wednesday questioned the fairness of the United States’s longstanding defense pact with Japan just hours before heading to the country for the G-20 summit of world leaders.
The defense agreement, signed in the wake of World War II, is an element of the world order built over the latter half of the 20th century. It requires the United States to come to the defense of Japan in case the island nation is attacked, and allows the U.S. to station troops at military bases in the country.
“If Japan is attacked, we will fight World War III. We will go in and protect them with our lives and with our treasure,” Trump said during an interview with Maria Bartiromo on Fox Business. “We will fight at all costs, right? But if we are attacked, Japan doesn’t have to help us at all. They can watch on a Sony television the attack. So, there’s a little difference, ok?”
Trump had privately mused about withdrawing from the defense agreement, Bloomberg News reported this week, though he did not go as far as threatening to scrap the treaty on Wednesday. Pulling out of the treaty would have global implications and would likely reduce U.S. influence in Asia.
According to George Packard, former dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, the treaty is the longest lasting alliance between great powers since the 1648 Peace of Westphalia.