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Donald Trump says 'let it be an arms race' after nuclear weapons expansion comment

'We will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all,' says President-elect

Harriet Agerholm
Friday 23 December 2016 13:19 GMT
Donald Trump says 'let it be an arms race' after nuclear expansion tweet

US President-elect Donald Trump has said: “Let it be an arms race,” MSNBC said on Friday.

“We will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all,” Mr Trump said in an interview with MSNBC’s Morning Joe host Mika Brzezinski, the network reported. He did not specify which countries he was referring to.

The Republican leader had sparked fears about a new global nuclear arms race a day before when he called on the US to expand its nuclear arsenal in a Twitter post.

He said the US must “greatly strengthen and expand” its stock of atomic weapons until “the world comes to its senses regarding nukes”.

The President-elect gave no other details about his plans. But his comment immediately triggered fears that he will reverse decades of policy in which the nation has, in tandem with Russia, sought to reduce its atomic arsenal.

Following the controversial post, a Trump spokesperson attempted to explain the Republican’s remarks, claiming he was “referring to the threat of nuclear proliferation and the critical need to prevent it – particularly to and among terrorist organisations and unstable and rogue regimes”.

Minutes after Mr Trump’s remarks were reported on MSNBC, Trump secretary Sean Spicer said in several television interviews that there would not be an arms race because the President-elect would ensure that other countries trying to step up their nuclear capabilities, such as Russia and China, would decide not to participate.

“He’s going to ensure that other countries get the message that he’s not going to sit back and allow that,” Mr Spicer told NBC. “And what’s going to happen is they will come to their senses, and we will all be just fine.”

In his annual news conference on Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin downplayed suggestions there was a risk of a new cold-war-style weapons race, dismissing comments made by the US President-elect as “nothing new”.

He added that if Mr Trump sent him an invitation, he would be willing to visit the US.

But he also said his recently announced plans to bolster Russia’s nuclear weapons was a necessary response to the US missile defence system.

“It’s not us who have been speeding up the arms race,” Mr Putin said, claiming that the Russian military’s nuclear missiles can penetrate any missile defence.

During the campaign, Mr Trump had suggested the US expand its arsenal and he also suggested that “better off” other countries, including Japan and South Korea, should have nuclear capabilities.

He said that would mean that the US’s traditional allies might not be so dependent on Washington.

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