President-elect Donald Trump said the US must “greatly strengthen and expand” its nuclear capabilities “until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes”.
His spokesman later said that the presidentelect was referring to the need to prevent nuclear proliferation.
Donald Trump spoke hours after President Vladimir Putin said Russia needs to bolster its military nuclear potential.
According to Arms Control Association, the US has 7,100 nuclear weapons and Russia has 7,300.
Donald Trump’s comments came in the form of a tweet, giving no other details.
Hours later, Jason Miller, the communications manager for the Trump transition team, explained the president-elect “was referring to the threat of nuclear proliferation and the critical need to prevent it – particularly to and among terrorist organizations and unstable and rogue regimes”.
Jason Miller also added that Donald Trump “emphasized the need to improve and modernize our deterrent capability as a vital way to pursue peace through strength”.
Donald Trump’s tweet came after Vladimir Putin met with his military advisers to review Russian military activities in 2016.
The Russian president said: “We need to strengthen the military potential of strategic nuclear forces, especially with missile complexes that can reliably penetrate any existing and prospective missile defense systems.”
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.
Donald Trump’s defeated Democratic rival Hillary Clinton repeatedly cast her opponent during the campaign as too erratic and lacking in the diplomatic skills required to avoid a nuclear war.
Hillary Clinton mocked Donald Trump by saying: “A man who can be provoked by a tweet should not have his fingers anywhere near the nuclear codes.”
In interviews before his surprise victory Donald Trump said that other countries should spend more on their own defense budgets, and forgo US protection, because “we can’t afford to do it anymore”.
He has said he is in favor of countries such as Japan and South Korea developing nuclear weapons “because it’s going to happen anyway”.
Donald Trump is spending the festive season at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, where he has been meeting with campaign advisers.