Germany rejects Trump's claim it owes NATO and US 'vast sums' for defense


BERLIN, March 19 (Reuters) - German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen on Sunday rejected U.S. President Donald Trump's claim that Germany owes NATO and the United States "vast sums" of money for defense.

"There is no debt account at NATO," von der Leyen said in a statement, adding that it was wrong to link the alliance's target for members to spend 2 percent of their economic output on defense by 2024 solely to NATO.

"Defense 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.

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U.S. President Donald Trump acknowledges members of his cabinet, including Chief of Staff Reince Priebus (from 4th R), Senior Advisor Steve Bannon, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Vice President Mike Pence, as they arrive to meet with Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S. March 17, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
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U.S. President Donald Trump, speaks while Angela Merkel, Germany's chancellor, left, listens during a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, March 17, 2017. Merkel, who is running for a fourth term in Germanys election in September, plans to explain her view of the mutual advantages of free trade during her talks with Trump on Friday, according to German officials. Photographers: Pat Benic/Pool via Bloomberg
US President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel hold a joint press conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on March 17, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrive to speak at a joint news conference at the White House in Washington, U.S., March 17, 2017. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
US President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel hold a joint press conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on March 17, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump and Angela Merkel, Germany's chancellor, smile for photographs as she arrives to the West Wing of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, March 17, 2017. Trumps first meeting with Merkel will test the power dynamic between the Wests two pre-eminent leaders, one struggling for credibility on the world stage while the other fights for political survival at home. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
U.S. President Donald Trump welcomes German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the White House in Washington, U.S., March 17, 2017. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
U.S. President Donald Trump welcomes German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the White House in Washington, U.S., March 17, 2017. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
U.S. President Donald Trump welcomes German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the White House in Washington, U.S., March 17, 2017. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
U.S. President Donald Trump escorts German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the White House in Washington, U.S., March 17, 2017. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
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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 defense union and investment in the United Nations.

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!"

Trump has urged Germany and other NATO members to accelerate efforts to meet NATO's defense spending target.

German defense spending is set to rise by 1.4 billion euros to 38.5 billion euros 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 defense spending ratio stood at 1.18 percent.

During her trip to Washington, Merkel reiterated Germany's commitment to the 2 percent military spending goal. (Reporting by Andreas Rinke; writing by Michelle Martin; editing by Jason Neely)

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