David Jackson | USA TODAYUpdated 8:15 p.m. ET Feb. 23, 2017
WASHINGTON — President Trump pledged Thursday to keep the United States at the "top of the pack" in terms of nuclear weapons, expanding the nation's nuclear arsenal if necessary and suggesting that changes to a treaty with Russia could be possible.
"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," Trump told Reuters in an interview. "We’re never going to fall behind on nuclear power."
In December, after Russian President Vladimir Putin talked about enhancing his country's nuclear capability, Trump responded with a tweet: "The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes."
The current strategic arms limitation treaty, called New START, calls for limits on U.S. and Russian arsenals of strategic nuclear weapons.
In the Reuters interview, Trump described new START as a "one-sided" agreement.
"Just another bad deal that the country made, whether it's START, whether it's the Iran deal ... We're going to start making good deals," Trump said.
Trump also said: "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."
Asked about Trump's statements about nuclear weapons, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Trump was responding to a question about other countries increasing their nuclear arms. "The United States will not yield its supremacy in this area to anybody," Spicer said.
Trump made the comments during an interview with Reuters that also touched on issues involving Russia, China and North Korea.
In his interview with Reuters, Trump also:
• Said Russian deployment of a new type of cruise missile violates an arms control treaty, and he will raise the subject with Putin "if and when we meet;" no such meeting is yet scheduled. Trump has been criticized by Democrats who say he has been too friendly toward the Russian leader.
• Sought to pressure China over the nuclear challenge from North Korea, saying the Beijing government could solve it "very easily if they want to." Trump said he personally is "very angry" at North Korea over recent ballistic missile tests and may accelerate a missile defense system to protect Japan and South Korea. China, however, has said it would ban all imports of coal from North Korea, which depends on its trade with China for a large chunk of its income.
• Spoke favorably of some kind of tax on goods flowing across the border but did not endorse a specific plan. "I certainly support a form of tax on the border," he told Reuters. "What is going to happen is companies are going to come back here, they're going to build their factories and they're going to create a lot of jobs and there's no tax."
• Said the administration will take up tax reform after a plan to change the Affordable Care Act, former president Barack Obama's health care plan.