(Adds uranium companies stocks move, Putin comments)
WASHINGTON, Dec 23 (Reuters) - U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, asked to clarify his comments about expanding U.S. nuclear weapons capability, said, “Let it be an arms race,” and that the United States would win it, MSNBC reported on Friday.
Trump had alarmed non-proliferation experts on Thursday with a Twitter post that said the United States “must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.”
MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski spoke with Trump on the phone and asked him to expand on his tweet. She said he responded: “Let it be an arms race. We will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all.”
Shares of uranium producers and a nuclear fuel technology company have jumped on Trump’s comments with Uranium Resources Inc, Uranium Energy Corp, Cameco Corp and Lightbridge Corp all trading higher on Friday.
It was not clear what prompted Thursday’s tweet by Trump, a Republican who takes office on Jan. 20, but it came the same day Russian President Vladimir Putin said his country needed to boost its nuclear forces.
In his year-end news conference in Moscow on Friday, Putin said Trump’s comment on Wednesday was not out of line and that he did not consider the United States to be a potential aggressor.
Trump spokesman Sean Spicer said in several television interviews on Friday that there would not be an arms race because the president-elect would ensure that other countries trying to step up their nuclear capabilities, such as Russia and China, would decide not to do so.
“He’s going to ensure that other countries get the message that he’s not going to sit back and allow that,” Spicer, who was named this week as White House spokesman for the president-elect, told NBC. “And what’s going to happen is they will come to their senses, and we will all be just fine.” (Reporting by Eric Walsh; Additional reporting by Susan Heavey and Dan Burns; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Bill Trott)