In response to a reporter’s question, President Trump on Wednesday said he was “confident” about the safety of U.S. nuclear weapons at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey.
During a meeting with Italian President Sergio Mattarella in the Oval Office, a reporter asked Trump how confident he is — amid increasing tensions with Turkey over its invasion of Syria, targeting of Kurdish forces and possible U.S. economic sanctions — about the safety of nuclear weapons reportedly housed at Incirlik.
“One of the things that has been exposed by this Turkey situation is that as many as 50 nuclear weapons are at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey. How confident are you of those weapons’ safety?” the reporter asked, according to a transcript of the exchange provided by the White House.
“We’re confident, and we have a great air base there, a very powerful air base,” Trump said in response. “That air base alone can take any place. It’s a large, powerful air base.”
Trump went on to reiterate that Turkey is a member of NATO.
“We’re supposed to get along with our NATO members, and Turkey is a NATO member," Trump said. "Do people want us to start shooting at a NATO member? That would be a first. And that’s all involved having to do with NATO.”
The New York Times reported on Monday that, over the weekend, government officials had reviewed plans for evacuating nuclear weapons at Incirlik.
The Air Force, as is its usual practice, declined to answer questions about possible weapons there, and whether they would be moved. But the Air Force said Monday that no changes had been made to daily operations at Incirlik.
The presence of nuclear weapons at Incirlik has long been rumored, though never officially confirmed by the government. A Canadian senator earlier this year accidentally published a document listing the bases where U.S. nuclear weapons are kept, including Incirlik.
Stephen Losey is the air warfare reporter for Defense News. He previously covered leadership and personnel issues at Air Force Times, and the Pentagon, special operations and air warfare at Military.com. He has traveled to the Middle East to cover U.S. Air Force operations.