U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday cited South Korea as an example where the United States has helped other countries at the expense of its domestic problems.
Trump was addressing workers at a manufacturing facility under construction in Monaca, Pennsylvania, when he took to boasting about his administration's achievements in "putting America first."
"After years of building up foreign countries, we are finally building up our country," he said. "Think of it. We protect the border of South Korea, but we don't protect our own border. But now we are, and the wall is being built."
Trump was apparently referring to Washington's commitments in South Korea under their mutual defense treaty, including the 28,500 American troops stationed in the country.
Meanwhile, building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border has been one of Trump's pet projects.
The U.S. president has increased pressure on South Korea to contribute more to the upkeep of American troops, tweeting last week that Seoul had agreed to pay "substantially more" to Washington.
The tweet came as the allies are expected to launch negotiations soon on renewing their cost-sharing deal, known as the Special Measures Agreement.
The current SMA requires South Korea to pay 1.04 trillion won (US$850 million) this year, an on-year increase of 8.2 percent.
At a fundraising event for his reelection campaign on Friday, Trump also boasted, "It was easier to get a billion dollars from South Korea than to get $114.13 from a rent-controlled apartment in Brooklyn," according to the New York Post.
And in a different tweet on Saturday, Trump called military exercises between South Korea and the U.S. "ridiculous and expensive," while downplaying North Korea's recent missile launches.
Critics have lamented that the U.S. leader does not recognize the value of alliances, and in particular that of the alliance with South Korea in both deterring North Korean aggression and countering China's growing military assertiveness.
Some South Korean politicians slammed Trump for his earlier remarks.
"With the mindset of a merchant, a businessman, he does not know his ass from his elbow, his enemy from his friend," Rep. Cho Kyoung-tae, a member of the Supreme Council of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party, told a radio talk show Tuesday. (Yonhap)