With the threat of a nuclear armed North Korea looming over the Pacific, President Donald Trump on Wednesday claimed to have made the U.S. nuclear arsenal “far stronger and more powerful than ever before” during his first few months in office.
“My first order as President was to renovate and modernize our nuclear arsenal. It is now far stronger and more powerful than ever before,” Trump wrote in a pair of posts to Twitter. “Hopefully we will never have to use this power, but there will never be a time that we are not the most powerful nation in the world!”
Despite Trump’s tweet, the nuclear arsenal takes decades, not months, to modernize. Much of the modernization going on now, like procurement of a new Air Force bomber or the Navy’s Columbia-class submarine, started under former President Barack Obama.
Trump’s stepped-up bellicose rhetoric comes as the North Korean regime of dictator Kim Jong Un has taken significant steps in achieving its long-held goal of building a nuclear missile that threatens the U.S. In recent weeks, North Korea has tested ballistic missiles that could potentially strike the continental U.S., a step made more alarming by a Washington Post story published Tuesday reporting that the Pentagon’s intelligence agency has concluded that the Kim regime has successfully miniaturized a nuclear warhead small enough to fit inside one of its missiles.
The progress of North Korea’s nuclear program has been met on the international stage by a fresh package of sanctions from the United Nations Security Council. U.S. officials have expressed optimism that those sanctions will be fully enforced by China and Russia, North Korea’s chief economic partners, both of which voted in favor of the new economic restraints at the Security Council.
The president, in remarks Tuesday from his New Jersey club, warned North Korea that it had “best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.” North Korea, in a statement from its army, said it was reviewing military options to strike the U.S. territory of Guam and threatened to launch missiles at the Pacific island and surround it in an "enveloping fire.”
The modernization efforts previously proposed by the Obama administration are estimated to cost about $1 trillion over the next 30 years and have faced criticism by some lawmakers for being overly aggressive.
At the same time that new delivery platforms are being developed, the U.S. is reducing the number of deployed nuclear warheads in accordance with the New START Treaty with Russia.
The Trump administration called for a review of the nation’s nuclear posture shortly after taking office, but only formally launched the review in April. The review will look at the safety and security of the nuclear arsenal, as well as any changes that should be made to Obama’s modernization plan.
Results of the review aren’t expected until the end of the year.