The comments came as the Pentagon requested $24 billion for nuclear weaponry.
President Donald Trump said on Monday that if other countries committed to nuclear disarmament, the U.S. would too. His administration, meanwhile, announced it would request a spending increase specifically to bulk the nuclear arsenal.
“I hope they stop, and if they do, we’ll stop in two minutes,” the president said during a meeting state and local officials. “And frankly I’d like to get rid of a lot of them. And if they want to do that, we’ll go along with them. We won’t lead the way; we’ll go along with them.”
“But they’re not stopping,” he continued. “So if they’re not going to stop, we’re going to be so far ahead of everybody else, and nuclear like you’ve never seen before.”
The comments came on the same day that the Pentagon published its $686 billion budget proposal, which included $24 billion for nuclear weaponry and a further $12.9 billion for missile defense.
The request comes on the back of the Nuclear Posture Review, released in January, which argued that “modernizing the nation’s nuclear delivery systems” across “land, sea and air” was a “number one priority.” The report cited threats from other superpowers, particularly Russia and China.
“We’re increasing arsenals of virtually every weapon,” Trump said of the funding boost. “We’re modernizing and creating a brand-new nuclear force. And, frankly, we have to do because others are doing it. If they stop, we’ll stop.”
Trump’s has consistently supported the idea of building up nuclear capability. His statements repeat remarks made a year ago this month, despite varied reactions Monday.
“I am the first one that would like to see… 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,” he said to Reuters last February. “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 Federation of American Scientists estimates the current U.S. stockpile of nuclear warheads to be 4,018, in both deployment and storage. Russia is believed to have around 4,300 nuclear warheads. Meanwhile, anti-nuclear advocacy group Ploughshares suggests Russian figures could be as high as 7,000 and U.S. stockpile numbers as high as 6,800.