20 Mar 2017

German minister hits back at Trump

9:30 am on 20 March 2017

German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen has hit back at US President Donald Trump's claim that her country owes NATO and the United States "vast sums" of money for defence.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel meets with US President Donald Trump at the White House.

Donald Trump and Angela Merkel met in Washington last week. Photo: AFP

Mr Trump said on Twitter on Saturday - a day after meeting German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Washington - that Germany "owes vast sums of money to NATO & the United States must be paid more for the powerful, and very expensive, defense it provides to Germany!"

He urged Germany and other NATO members to accelerate efforts to meet NATO's defence spending target.

But Ms von der Leyen said in a statement on Sunday (local time), "There is no debt account at NATO," and added it was wrong to link the alliance's target for members to spend 2 percent of their economic output on defence by 2024 solely to NATO.

German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen

Ursula von der Leyen has hit back at Donald Trump. Photo: AFP

"Defence spending also goes into UN peacekeeping missions, into our European missions and into our contribution to the fight against IS terrorism," von der Leyen said.

She said everyone wanted the burden to be shared fairly and for that to happen it was necessary to have a "modern security concept" that included a modern NATO but also a European defence union and investment in the United Nations.

German defence spending is set to rise by €1.4 billion to €38.5 billion in 2018 - a figure that is projected to represent 1.26 percent of economic output, Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble has said.

In 2016, Germany's defence spending ratio stood at 1.18 percent.

During her trip to Washington, Dr Merkel reiterated Germany's commitment to the 2 percent military spending goal.