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Trump: We must 'modernize and rebuild' nuclear arsenal

President TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocrats slide in battle for Senate Trump believes Kushner relationship with Saudi crown prince a liability: report Christine Blasey Ford to be honored by Palo Alto City Council MORE on Tuesday pledged to “modernize and rebuild” the U.S. nuclear arsenal as part of his first State of the Union address.

“As part of our defense, we must modernize and rebuild our nuclear arsenal, hopefully never having to use it, but making it so strong and so powerful that it will deter any acts of aggression by any other nation or anyone else,” he said to some applause.

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“Perhaps someday in the future there will be a magical moment when the countries of the world will get together to eliminate their nuclear weapons. Unfortunately, we are not there yet, sadly.”

The address comes days before the Pentagon is expected to release the results of its months-long nuclear posture review ordered by Trump.

A leaked draft of the report revealed that it will call for the U.S. to develop so-called low-yield nuclear weapons to deter Russia and China. The idea is that if the current U.S. nuclear weapons are so powerful they will never be used, then they do not act as a deterrent.

But arms control advocates have expressed alarm at the plan, saying low-yield nuclear weapons are still nuclear weapons and that having them could make the U.S. more willing to use them. They have also argued the price tag is cost-prohibitive.

Trump’s call for modernizing and rebuilding the U.S. nuclear arsenal came as he reiterated his desire to end the caps on defense spending, commonly referred to as a sequester.

“Around the world, we face rogue regimes, terrorist groups and rivals like China and Russia that challenge our interests, our economy and our values,” he said. “In confronting these horrible dangers, we know that weakness is the surest path to conflict, and unmatched power is the surest means to our true and great defense. For this reason, I am asking Congress to end the dangerous defense sequester and fully fund our great military.”

The budget caps continue to be a sticking point, as Congress has yet to agree to a budget deal and continues to operate under a stopgap spending measure four months into the fiscal year. 

Republicans want to raise the caps on defense to hike Pentagon spending, but Democrats, as they long have, have insisted on equal increases for nondefense spending.