In an interview with Reuters, the US president flirted with a nuclear arms race, called China "grand champion" of currency manipulation, and said Israel and Palestine should have the final say on their future.

US President Donald Trump told Reuters at the Oval Office the US would never fall behind any country on nuclear power. February 23, 2017.
US President Donald Trump told Reuters at the Oval Office the US would never fall behind any country on nuclear power. February 23, 2017. (TRT World and Agencies)

"Don't believe the mainstream media," US President Donald Trump said on Twitter. Then he proceeded to lay out his vision on several fronts with the most mainstream of mainstream media - Reuters.

Here are four hot potatoes Trump dropped during the news agency's interview on Thursday with the US president.

Second strike?

The US and Russia. India and Pakistan. Two arms competitions of varying intensities which prompted a non-proliferation treaty, sanctions against countries engaging in nuclear arms development and a promise to cap the stockpile held by US and Russia. Until Thursday, when Trump said this at the Oval Office:

"It would be wonderful, a dream would be that no country would have nukes, but if countries are going to have nukes, we need to be on top of the pack."

While this was not a surprising comment from the president, it's a fresh call to arms that nuclear critics will find alarming. In his first telephone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Trump did a U-Turn on US policy and denounced his predecessor's strategic arms limitation treaty New START, calling it a "bad deal." New START gives both countries until February 2018 to reduce their deployed strategic nuclear warheads to no more than 1,550, the lowest level in decades.

Return to the international consensus?

At a joint presser with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on February 15, Trump created a furore by suggesting the US might walk back its support for an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel. In the Reuters interview, Trump partially backed down and expressed a clear preference for what has been long-standing official US policy.

"No, I like the two-state solution, But I ultimately like what both parties like."

There have been growing concerns that actions on the ground—such as illegal Israeli settlements—were giving way to "one state and perpetual occupation." For decades, diplomats around the world have tried and failed to negotiate a peace co-existence between the Palestinians and the Israelis. Both sides, however, continue to disagree over political identity, borders, land swaps and population swaps.

Currency manipulator?

During his campaign and as president-elect, Trump accused China of artificially undervaluing its currency, the yuan (or renminbi), to give China an unfair trade advantage in its export markets, including with its biggest trading partner, the US.

The US president, whose analysis has been discredited by Chinese and other experts, levelled similar accusations on Thursday.

"Well they, I think they're the grand champions at manipulation of currency."

Trump's treasury secretary has taken a more cautious approach. Stephen Mnuchin said the US would not be making any judgements before looking at currency practices of major trading partners.

China responded on Friday, saying Beiing had no intention of seeking foreign trade advantages via an intentional devaluation of its currency. Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said, "There is no basis for the continued devaluation of the renminbi."

Jobs versus cheap goods?

The Republican border tax plan would make US exports cheaper in the world market while increasing the costs of importing. The Financial Times article broke down the plan and concluded it might generate substantial revenue but would hurt big importers such as Walmart.

"I certainly support a form of tax on the border," Trump told Reuters, suggesting it could boost US jobs. "What is going to happen is companies are going to come back here, they're going to build their factories and they're going to create a lot of jobs and there's no tax."

Critics think implementing a 20 percent tax on imports could fuel higher inflation. Retailers and oil refiners warn of higher prices for consumer goods if the tax measure passes.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies