World

US nuke arsenal must be 'top of pack'

New Start treaty with Russia to cut nuclear weapons is 'one-sided', says Trump

WASHINGTONUS President Donald Trump said on Thursday he wants to ensure that the US nuclear arsenal is at the "top of the pack," saying the country has fallen behind in its weapons capacity.

In a Reuters interview, Mr Trump was asked about a December tweet in which he said the US must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capacity "until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes".

He said: "I am the first one that would like to see... nobody has nukes, but we are never going to fall behind any country even if it is a friendly country, we are never going to fall behind on nuclear power."

Russia has 7,000 warheads, and the US has 6,800, according to the Ploughshares Fund, an anti-nuclear group.

"Russia and the US have far more weapons than is necessary to deter a nuclear attack by the other or by another nuclear-armed country," said independent and non-profit group Arms Control Association's executive director, Mr Daryl Kimball.

The new strategic arms limitation treaty between the US and Russia, known as New Start, requires both countries to limit their arsenals of strategic nuclear weapons to equal levels for 10 years by Feb 5, 2018.

The treaty permits both countries to have no more than 800 deployed and non-deployed land-based intercontinental and submarine-launched ballistic missile launchers and heavy bombers equipped to carry nuclear weapons.

It also contains equal limits on other nuclear weapons.

Analysts have questioned if Mr Trump wants to do away with New Start or begin deploying other warheads.

'ONE-SIDED DEAL'

In the interview, Mr Trump called New Start "a one-sided deal", saying: "Just another bad deal that the country made, whether it is Start, whether it is the Iran deal ... We are going to start making good deals."

The US is in the midst of a $1 trillion and 30-year modernisation of its ageing ballistic missile submarines, bombers and land-based missiles.

Mr Trump also complained that the Russian deployment of a ground-based cruise missile is in violation of a 1987 treaty that bans land-based American and Russian intermediate-range missiles.

"To me it is a big deal," said Mr Trump, who has held out the possibility of warmer US relations with Russia.

Asked if he would raise the issue with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Mr Trump said he would do so "if and when we meet".

Speaking from behind his desk in the Oval Office, Mr Trump expressed concern about North Korea's ballistic missile tests and said accelerating a missile defence system for US allies Japan and South Korea was among many options available.

"There's talk of a lot more than that," Mr Trump said, when asked about the missile defence system.

"We'll see what happens. But it's a very dangerous situation, and China can end it very quickly in my opinion."

China has made clear that it opposes North Korea's nuclear and missile programmes and has repeatedly called for de-nuclearisation of the Korean peninsula and a return to negotiations between Pyongyang and world powers. - REUTERS

donald trumpNorth KoreaBUDGET