Warhead wish led to ‘moron’ jibe
UNITED STATES: A call by US President Donald Trump for an eightfold increase in the number of US nuclear warheads led to his secretary of state calling him a moron, according to new reports of a meeting at the Pentagon.
Trump made the request in July, during a wide-ranging review of America’s military position and after being shown a slide depicting the size of the US nuclear arsenal, three officials who were in the room told NBC News.
He is said to have pointed out the highest number on the chart - about 32,000 nuclear warheads in the late 1960s - and told his advisers that he wanted to have a similar number once more.
The US is estimated to have about 4000 warheads.
Senior advisers explained that the request would break an array of weapons treaties and risk triggering a new global arms race. The meeting included Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford, Defence Secretary Jim Mattis, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
After Trump had left the meeting, Tillerson allegedly called the president a moron.
Trump yesterday dismissed the story as inaccurate, tweeting: ‘‘Fake @NBCNews made up a story that I wanted a ‘ tenfold’ increase in our US nuclear arsenal. Pure fiction, made up to demean.’’
He added on Twitter: ‘‘With all of the Fake News coming out of NBC and the Networks, at what point is it appropriate to challenge their Licence? Bad for country!’’
Broadcast licenses are administered by the Federal Communications Commission, and are not usually revoked unless a holder commits serious illegal conduct.
Trump had described the alleged ‘‘moron’’ comment as fake news on Wednesday but added that he and Tillerson should perhaps compare IQ scores.
News of Trump’s nuclear request has emerged as his White House faces two nuclear-based challenges, in North Korea and Iran. US strategic bombers again carried out exercises close to North Korea yesterday, hours after Trump and a group of senior advisers, including Tillerson and Mattis, met to discuss their strategy towards Pyongyang.
North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho said yesterday Trump’s bellicose rhetoric had ‘‘lit the wick of a war against us’’.
‘‘We need to settle the final score, only with a hail of fire, not words,’’ Ri told Russian news agency Tass.
Cybersecurity experts also said that North Korean hackers had targeted US electricity companies. The hackers sent ‘‘spearfishing’’ emails to company executives. If opened, the messages would install malware on their network, according to FireEye, a security company.
Separately, Trump is expected to withdraw his blessing from the Iran nuclear deal as soon as this weekend, ignoring recommendations from his security advisers and allies, including Britain. British Prime Minister Theresa May has urged Trump to stick to the deal.
Trump must guarantee to the US Congress every 90 days that Iran is fulfilling its commitments under the deal. If he does not, then Congress has 60 days in which to decide whether to reapply sanctions.
White House officials also said that Trump planned to designate the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist group in a statement this week.
The US State Department announced yesterday that it was offering US$7 million and US$5m respectively for information leading to the arrests of Hezbollah leaders Talal Hamiyah, who leads its external security organisation, and Fuad Shukr, a military operative.
US President Donald Trump awaits the arrival of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the White House yesterday.