Trump says US will outspend rivals on its nuclear arsenal

‘We have more money than anybody else, by far. We’ll build it up,’ US president proclaims

US president Donald Trump has warned that the United States intends to build up its arsenal of nuclear weapons to pressure Russia and China. Video: The White House

 

The US will outspend any other country  in building up its nuclear arsenal, President Donald Trump has  said, in a fresh challenge to Russia and China.

“We have more money than anybody else, by far. We’ll build it up,” Mr Trump said after being asked late on Monday if he was prepared to build up the US’s nuclear arsenal.

“Until they come to their senses. When they do, then we’ll all be smart and we’ll all stop.”

Speaking before a mid-term election campaign rally, Mr Trump repeated his intention to terminate the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, known as INT, with Russia.

He said Moscow had “violated the agreement” on intermediate-range conventional and nuclear weapons - accusations that Russia has repeatedly rejected.

“It’s a threat to whoever you want,” he added when asked if it was a threat to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“And it includes China, and it includes Russia, and it includes anybody else that wants to play that game. You can’t do that. You can’t play that game on me.”

Burying rivals

Congress may not share Mr Trump’s enthusiasm for burying China and Russia with another costly nuclear arms race.

While Congress approved a 4 per cent funding increase for the Department of Energy nuclear weapons budget last month, the Republican Party is at risk of losing control of the House in midterm elections in two weeks - a shift that would give Mr Trump less leeway to boost spending.

Countries around the globe urged the US to stay in the three-decade-old arms control treaty with Russia.

The European Union said the two sides “need to remain engaged in constructive dialog to preserve the treaty,” while China said the move would generate multiple negative effects.

“I want to stress that it is completely wrong to use China as an excuse for pulling out of the treaty,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters Monday in Beijing before Mr Trump’s latest remarks. “We hope relevant countries can cherish the hard-won achievements over the years, prudently and properly handle issues related to the treaty through dialogue and consultation, and think twice about withdrawing from the treaty.”

Mr Trump’s latest comments came the same day as the US Navy sailed two warships through the Taiwan Strait for the second time since July, a show of force that threatens to further exacerbate tensions with China.

Free hand

Without the restrictions of the 1987 treaty, China has had a free hand developing and deploying intermediate-range nuclear missiles of its own, including missiles designed to take out US aircraft carriers patrolling the waters of the Western Pacific.

Exiting the accord would free the US to deploy new weapons in the Indo-Pacific to respond to China’s attempt to erode its post-second World War dominance.

The prospect of a US weapons buildup would underscore concern in Beijing that the US is intent on thwarting China’s rise, be it via a trade war or a systematic program of military containment.

Since Mr Trump’s election US-China relations have deteriorated on virtually every front, from trade to cyber-security to geopolitical flash points like Taiwan and the South China Sea. - Bloomberg