Trump calls for building up nuke arsenal to be ‘top of the pack’

President Trump said Thursday he wants to build up the U.S. nuclear arsenal so that it is at the “top of the pack.”

“I am the first one that would like to see everybody — 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,” Trump said in an interview with Reuters.

"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.”

The interview also touched on Russia’s violation of an arms control treaty, North Korea’s ballistic missile tests and China’s ability to pressure Pyongyang.  

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Trump also claimed the U.S. has “fallen behind on nuclear weapon capacity,” according to Reuters.

Trump previously called in a December tweet for the U.S. to “greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.”

The December comment drew consternation from arms control advocates, who said the U.S.’s current 30-year, $1 trillion nuclear modernization efforts and 7,000 existing nuclear warheads are already more than enough.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Thursday that Trump was “very clear” that the U.S. cannot “yield its supremacy to anybody.”

“That’s what he made very clear in there in that if other countries have nuclear capabilities, it will always be the United States that has the supremacy and commitment to this,” Spicer said at Thursday’s press briefing. 

“The question that was asked was about other people that were growing their stockpiles.”

In the Reuters interview, Trump slammed the New START Treaty with Russia that caps the number of nuclear warheads the U.S. and Russia can deploy, calling it “a one-sided deal.”

"Just another bad deal that the country made, whether it's START, whether it's the Iran deal,” he said. “We're going to start making good deals.”

Trump also reportedly called the New START Treaty a bad deal in a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin last month.

A separate treaty with Russia, known as the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, bans ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. Russia has violated the treaty by deploying a cruise missile within its borders.

Trump called the violation a “big deal” in the Reuters interview. He said he would bring it up with Putin “if and when we meet."

Trump also said that "we're very angry" at North Korea's ballistic missile tests. Accelerating the deployment of a missile-defense system in South Korea was among many options available, he added.

As he has in the past, Trump pointed at China as being able to curb North Korea’s provocative behavior, saying Beijing could do so “very easily if they want to.”

"There's talks of a lot more than that," Trump said when asked about the missile defense system. "We'll see what happens. But it's a very dangerous situation, and China can end it very quickly in my opinion."

Updated at 4:22 p.m.