President Donald Trump has repeated calls for the US nuclear supremacy, in his first comments on the issue since taking office.
He said it would be “wonderful” if no nation had nuclear arms, but otherwise the US must be “top of the pack”.
President Trump told Reuter that the United States had “fallen behind on nuclear weapon capacity”.
Critics say the US and Russia already have more weapons than necessary to deter a nuclear attack.
According to the US nonpartisan Arms Control Association, the US has 6,800 nuclear weapons and Russia has 7,000.
Speaking to Reuters in a wide-ranging interview, President Trump said: “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.
“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.”
Donald Trump’s latest comments on nuclear weapons echo a tweet he sent a few weeks after his election win, in which he pledged to increase the country’s capability.
A new strategic arms limitation treaty between the US and Russia, known as New Start, requires that by February 5, 2018, both countries must limit their arsenals of strategic nuclear weapons to equal levels for 10 years.
The independent Arms Control Association non-profit group criticized Donald Trump’s remarks.
The group said in a statement: “Mr. Trump’s comments suggest, once again, that he is ill-informed about nuclear weapons and has a poor understanding of the unique dangers of nuclear weapons.
“The history of the Cold War shows us that no one comes out on <<top of the pack>> of an arms race and nuclear brinksmanship.”
During Donald Trump’s campaign he referred to nuclear proliferation as the “single biggest problem” facing the world, but also said he could not rule out using nuclear weapons against Europe.
Hillary Clinton repeatedly cast Donald Trump during the campaign as too erratic and lacking in the diplomatic skills required to avoid a nuclear war.