Sunday 18 March 2018

Trump vows to increase US nuclear arsenal

US President Donald Trump applauds his supporters after speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference, in Oxon Hill in Maryland yesterday. Photo: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque
US President Donald Trump applauds his supporters after speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference, in Oxon Hill in Maryland yesterday. Photo: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque
White House Communications Director Sean Spicer. Photo: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Rob Crilly and David Lawler

President Donald Trump has promised a new era of American nuclear dominance with an expanded arsenal of atomic weapons in his first comments on the subject since taking office.

In an interview with Reuters he said he wanted to see a world where nobody had nuclear weapons but until then the US should be "at the top of the pack".

His words risk a return to an arms race that ended with the fall of the Berlin Wall but are in keeping with a manifesto built on the idea that the US is not the global force it once was.

He returned to the theme yesterday during a speech to a conservative conference in which he promised to accelerate spending on the country's military might.

The US has 6,800 nuclear weapons compared with a Russian arsenal of 7,000, according to the independent Arms Control Association.

In the Oval Office interview, the US president said: "I am the first one that would like to see... nobody have nukes, but we're never going to fall behind any country even if it's a friendly country, we're never going to fall behind on nuclear power.

"It would be wonderful, a dream would be that no country would have nukes, but if countries are going to have nukes, we're going to be at the top of the pack."

Both the US and Russia - where Vladimir Putin has also promised to strengthen his arsenal - are committed to reducing the number of deployable warheads under the terms of the New Start deal signed in 2011.

Read more: US president's foreign policy might be unconventional  - but it is delivering results

It allows both countries to have a maximum of 800 deployed and non-deployed ballistic missile launchers and nuclear-equipped bombers. It limits the number of deployed warheads to 1,550.

Anti-nuclear campaigners said there were no winners in an arms race. The independent Arms Control Association said: "Mr Trump's comments suggest, once again, that he is ill-informed about nuclear weapons and has a poor understanding of the unique dangers of nuclear weapons. The history of the Cold War shows us that no-one comes out on 'top of the pack' of an arms race and nuclear brinksmanship."

However, the message of a military build-up was well received by Mr Trump's supporters at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), held just outside Washington

He promised to increase spending on what he described as America's "depleted" armed forces, upgrading every category of military equipment in "one of the greatest military build-ups in American history".

He said America's foes had been doubting its capabilities, but that would soon end.

"Nobody will dare question our military might again," he said. "We believe in peace through strength, and that's what we will have."

Mr Trump also used the speech to sharply escalate his criticisms of the news media.

Taking direct aim at the use of anonymous sources, Mr Trump said reporters "shouldn't be allowed to use sources unless they use somebody's name".

His comments came just hours after members of his own staff held a press briefing and refused to allow their names to be used.

"A source says that Donald Trump is a horrible, horrible human being, let them say it to my face," Mr Trump told CPAC gathering. "Let there be no more sources."

Members of Mr Trump's White House team regularly demand anonymity when talking to reporters. Mr Trump said he was not against all the press, just "the fake news media or press". "I'm against the people that make up stories and make up sources," he said. "They shouldn't be allowed to use sources unless they use somebody's name."

Mr Trump once again vowed to deport immigrants in the US illegally who have committed crimes. He said that "as we speak today, immigration officers are finding gang members, drug dealers and criminal aliens and throwing them the hell out".

His declaration came the day after he and one of his cabinet secretaries offered clashing takes on the nature of the deportation push. Homeland security secretary John Kelly pledged in Mexico that the US will not enlist its military to enforce immigration laws and that there will be "no mass deportations". But only hours earlier Mr Trump suggested the opposite, saying it would be a "military operation". Communications director Sean Spicer later said Mr Trump used "military" as an adjective and was stressing "precision". (© Daily Telegraph London)

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