UK must keep Trident nuclear deterrent - David Cameron


David Cameron: "Obviously the noises it (North Korea) has been making in recent weeks and months are worrying and threatening"

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The UK would be "foolish" to abandon Trident in the face of the potential threat of nuclear attack from North Korea and Iran, David Cameron has said.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, he said the country still needed the "ultimate weapon of defence".

The prime minister said the nuclear danger had "increased" since the end of the Cold War.

The Lib Dems want the UK to explore a cheaper alternative to the Tories' £20bn plan to replace Trident.

Mr Cameron is committed to maintaining a round-the-clock submarine-based nuclear missile system of the kind Britain has had since the late 1960s.

But the Lib Dems have insisted the coalition carry out a review of cheaper submarine or land-based options, including abandoning round-the-clock patrols.

'Nuclear blackmail'

Labour, which was committed to a like-for-like replacement for Trident when it was in power, has now said it will examine the outcome of that review.

The prime minister also stressed his commitment to Trident, which is based on the Clyde, during a visit to the west of Scotland.

"The world we live in is very uncertain, very dangerous: there are nuclear states and one cannot be sure of how they will develop," he told workers at a defence contractor in Glasgow.

"We cannot be sure on issues of nuclear proliferation, and to me having that nuclear deterrent is quite simply the best insurance policy that you can have, that you will never be subject to nuclear blackmail."

Start Quote

The (Scottish) parliament and 80% of the people of Scotland want to get rid of Trident”

End Quote Angus Robertson SNP defence spokesman

Mr Cameron had earlier visited HMS Victorious, one of the Royal Navy's four Vanguard-class submarines which keep Trident nuclear missiles continuously at sea, which is returning from its 100th patrol.

"I wanted to come on board and congratulate everyone who's been involved in those hundred tours and to say a big thank you to all those people so work so hard to keep us safe," he said.

The Scottish National Party has said it would not allow nuclear weapons to be based in Scotland, should next year's referendum support independence, a move that would potentially add billions to the cost of replacing Trident.

In the Daily Telegraph article, which was published ahead of his trip, Mr Cameron said the "highly unpredictable and aggressive" regime in North Korea was developing ballistic missiles that could become a threat to Britain.

He said: "We need our nuclear deterrent as much today as we did when a previous British government embarked on it over six decades ago.

"Of course, the world has changed dramatically. The Soviet Union no longer exists. But the nuclear threat has not gone away.

"In terms of uncertainty and potential risk it has, if anything, increased."

Mr Cameron said: "North Korea recently conducted its third nuclear test and could already have enough fissile material to produce more than a dozen nuclear weapons.

"Last year North Korea unveiled a long-range ballistic missile which it claims can reach the whole of the United States. If this became a reality it would also affect the whole of Europe, including the UK."

The prime minister questioned whether anyone would "seriously argue that it would be wise for Britain, faced with this evolving threat today, to surrender our deterrent".

"My judgement is that it would be foolish to leave Britain defenceless against a continuing, and growing, nuclear threat," he said.

Defence work

Shadow defence minister Kevan Jones said it was "absolutely right and necessary" for the UK to retain an independent nuclear deterrent but the cost needed to be taken into account.

"World events demonstrate that in an unpredictable era our country needs the ultimate security guarantee," he said.

"The precise nature of the deterrent must be judged on meeting military capability requirements and cost."

Mr Cameron has also spoken about the role of Scottish companies in supplying the UK's armed forces.

He described the work as more "secure" when it was as part of the United Kingdom, he said "defence jobs matter".

The SNP has claimed it would be a mistake for the UK government to place the Trident nuclear programme at the heart of its case for the union.

Defence spokesman Angus Robertson said: "The (Scottish) parliament and 80% of the people of Scotland want to get rid of Trident, and the obscene waste of up to £100bn it represents at a time of austerity and savage welfare cuts from Westminster."

Trident's Faslane base currently employs 6,700 military and civilian workers with that figure due to rise to 8,200 by 2022.

UK nuclear capability

Graphic showing how the Trident defence system works
  • The four Vanguard submarines which host Trident missiles can attack targets within a range of just over 4,600 miles (7,400km). The example above shows this range if the sub were located in the mid-Atlantic.

Meanwhile, the US has announced it is moving an advanced missile defence system to the Pacific island of Guam - where it has a significant military presence - amid heightened tensions on the Korean peninsula.

It came as North Korea said the use of nuclear weapons by its military had been ratified.

North Korea has threatened attacks on the US and South Korea in recent weeks.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 453.

    36 is a brilliant top rated comment, and I commend it to policymakers. Why did the editor pick 181 & 53 (only 2 picked at the time)?

    39: "We must keep out if [it]" is naive. If these guys start exchanging shots and it escalates, dragging in China & Russia -- it' a bleak future. We are already in it.

    I vote for Trident with more UK input and less foreign import. I vote for diplomacy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 452.

    I wonder how many £39.00 breakfasts the Cameron, Osborne, and Duncan-Smith will try to claim for on the back of this decision?

    Folks with their recent benefits cut can no doubt try and rest in their spare room knowing that their financial loss has contributed to the massive wealth of the top 10%.

  • rate this

    Comment number 451.

    What use would Trident be if another crackpot Argentinian military regime decided to invade the Falklands, and no conventional British forces were available for their defence because the money has been spent on Trident?

    Just how "independent" is Trident anyway? Does anyone seriously think the US would let GB use it against any state which was not a US enemy anyway - in which case what use is it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 450.

    so west gives up its nucs and a nuc nation(russia, india, pakistan, iran, china, north korea etc) decides they want to make us a colony or take our resources or just kill us because they think we are heathen degenerates or a threat to thier way of life(doesn't have to be true, they just have to believe it) what could we do to stop them? With nucs even the mad ones know the cost would be to high

  • rate this

    Comment number 449.

    Since Trident is primarily a deterrent rather than an actual weapon, we only need to *convince* other countries that it is real and fully-operational. What if we secretly dismantle the lot while still giving the impression it still exists, deterring a nuclear strike while saving billions?

    Wait, have they already thought of this? Are the Vanguards just roaming the seas with inert warheads?

  • rate this

    Comment number 448.

    Our fleet is tiny and is of no deterrent to anyone, a bit like a jack russell barking at bear, it's just so we can be a member of the big boys club. We could spend the money on modern none engagement methods of defence like drones planes that don't involve UK personal being killed.

    Or why not spend the defence budget on the soldiers at home with limbs missing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 447.

    408. AM
    Any country that fires a nuclear weapon in aggression or defence will be committing genocide against the population of the world. If so called intelligent world leaders can’t figure this out then there is no room for them as political leaders.

    Funniest comment ever.
    Political leaders don't get to be political leaders by being nice, cuddly, deep thinking men.

  • rate this

    Comment number 446.

    Keep your disgusting weapon, Mr Cameron, if it so pleases you. As a concession to those who oppose it in my country (the majority of Scots), how about parking it in the Thames instead of the Clyde though. That way, your beloved City bankers and Cabinet of Millionaires can sleep more peacefully at night, all watched over by weapons of loving destruction.

  • rate this

    Comment number 445.

    I'd like to know from government exactly, under what circumstances they would ever use our nuclear options? I do not believe that they can now offer a credible reason.

  • rate this

    Comment number 444.

    The UK would put their seat (or at least whatever influence they have) on the UN security council at risk if they did not have a nuclear capability.

  • rate this

    Comment number 443.

    If London is hit by a swarm of $500 drones, as professed by The Times last week, Trident will be shown to be about as white and elephantish as our two new aircraft carriers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 442.

    I don't get why we somehow still believe we are influential on a world scale (British imperialism has long gone!). I honestly don't believe that the likes of North Korea would ever target us unless we were involved in US strikes/wars. We should give up on old fashioned self importance and stop believing we're so vital - those days are long gone.

  • rate this

    Comment number 441.

    For North Korea, having their own nuclear arsenal keeps the US-of- A from invading. That is a fact. How many countries with (known) nuclear weapons have been invaded since the discovery of the atom bomb? None!

    Now, the UK does not need to upkeep a nuclear arsenal since there is no immediate threat of someone invading this island. Unless if they are used for offensive purposes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 440.

    We have submarines and destroyers that can carry and launch cruise missiles. All we need is to buy some American nuclear warheads for their Tomahawk cruise missiles and we are in business.

    A lot of money saved and we can strike any part of Iran or North Korea when it pleases us.

    Stop blowing the deficit on yesteryear's weaponry.

  • rate this

    Comment number 439.

    From a NK or Iranian point of view it wold make good sense to have a Nuclear deterrent.
    Iraq did not have one .... this allowed America and the gullible UK to enter it's territory and depose it's leader.

    Any country that wants to keep it's borders from invasion by a richer enemy with vastly more resources would be wise to obtain one.

  • rate this

    Comment number 438.


  • rate this

    Comment number 437.

    Having these so-called deterrents makes the owner of them a prime target for pre-emptive strikes surely. I'd have thought it was elementary logic, however, not so for our inglorious bar steward Flashman. It's as well no-one takes him seriously, not even his own party.

  • rate this

    Comment number 436.

    Things can change in world power very quickly, more quickly that the time it would take to reverse a decision not to have Trident. I am sure after WWI people thought it would never happen again (the war to end all wars) but of course it did. We need to be ready to face whatever the world throws at us and if you dont think this is the case then you are very short sighted.

  • rate this

    Comment number 435.

    There is no sane reason for having Nuclear weapons. The vast majority of countries in the world don't have them and don't want them. Its just a huge ego trip by whoever is in 10 Downing St. We also cannot afford them, 100 billion when the country is skint, what a joke!

  • rate this

    Comment number 434.

    Wait until the first North Korean rocket lands on Central London (or Central Edinburgh or Glasgow if you are a fan of the power-crazy SNP leader) and you will quickly realise just how cheap an independent nuclear deterrent and a successor to the Trident submarines really is. Even in real financial terms!


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