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Trump 'wanted almost 10 times more nuclear weapons in US arsenal'

The US has been steadily reducing its nuclear weapons stockpile since the late 1960s

Alexandra Wilts
Washington DC
Wednesday 11 October 2017 15:14 BST
US President Donald Trump speaks to the press with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on August 11, 2017, at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey.
US President Donald Trump speaks to the press with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on August 11, 2017, at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey. (AFP/Getty Images)

Donald Trump reportedly wanted almost 10 times more nuclear weapons in the US's arsenal.

During a meeting in July with America’s highest-ranking national security leaders, the President was shown a chart depicting the US’s steady reduction of its nuclear weapons stockpile since the late 1960s.

But Mr Trump apparently wanted a bigger stockpile, surprising his advisers including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, according to NBC News.

In response, officials told the President about the legal and practical impediments to a nuclear buildup and how the current military posture is stronger than it was at the height of the build-up, the news outlet reported.

The US currently has around 4,000 nuclear warheads in its military stockpile, according to the Federation of American Scientists.

Asked about whether he suggested the US should have 10 times more nuclear weapons, Mr Trump said that amount would be “totally unnecessary” and called NBC's report “fake news.”

“It is frankly disgusting the press is able to write whatever it wants to write,” Mr Trump told reporters.

“I know the capability we have, believe me, and it is awesome. It is massive,” he later added. “So when they make up stories like that, that's just made up, and the generals will tell you that. And then they have sources that don't exist, the don't exist. They make up the sources. There are no sources.”

Any growth in America’s nuclear weapons stockpile would break with decades of US nuclear doctrine and violate international disarmament treaties signed by every president since Ronald Reagan in the 1980s.

Along with wanting more nuclear weapons, the president also reportedly expressed a desire for additional US troops and military equipment throughout the meeting.

The government has not planned to expand its nuclear arsenal, three officials who were in the room told NBC, but experts have warned that any move to do so could set off a global arms race.

It was soon after the July 20 meeting ended that officials who remained behind heard Mr Tillerson call the President a “moron.” But it is unclear which portion of the Pentagon briefing, which had been described as lengthy and tense, prompted the top diplomat to say this.

Last week, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert strongly denied that Mr Tillerson referred to the President as a “moron”, asserting that “the secretary does not use that type of language.”

The report about Mr Trump’s desire to dramatically increase the country’s nuclear arsenal came as the US remains in high-stakes standoff with North Korea over Kim Jong-un’s expanding nuclear weapons programme.

The President this week is also expected to decertify the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which the Obama administration and other world powers had negotiated to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.

It is possible that once Mr Trump decertifies the agreement, North Korea and Iran could expand their military ties.

This week, Mr Trump met with his national security team in which they discussed “a range of options to respond to any form of North Korean aggression or, if necessary, to prevent North Korea from threatening the US and its allies with nuclear weapons,” according to the White House.

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