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 753.

    When would we use them??
    Imagine our allies are invaded by a large east asian county (LEAC) after their resources. Having nukes means we can and assist our ally conventionally, but the LEAC then threatens to nuke countries assisting our allies, we can respond or not. LEAC must make a decision: be nuked themselves or live within their current resources. Our weapons change other nations behaviour.

  • rate this

    Comment number 752.

    There is no increased nuclear danger, the only nuclear danger in the world today is americans using depleted uranium legally in gulf wars.

  • rate this

    Comment number 751.

    £100 Billion of conventional forces could do more than a few dozen Nuclear warheads.

    A Battalion of Infantry and a squadron of light tanks would have defeated the Argentines in 1982, another two mechanised or armoured Divisions could have taken us to Baghdad in 1990/91, and we could have reduced casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq by equipping our forces to a standard comparable to US forces.

  • rate this

    Comment number 750.

    So, we would be "foolish" to abandon Trident in the face of nuclear attacks from North Korea and Iran. I would have thought the US's 2200 nuclear warheads and bombs should be a significant deterrent, and that the UK's arsenal would not add much to that. Or does Cameron see us making unilateral nuclear strikes these nations? That wouldn't just be "foolish". "Mentally unbalanced" might be closer!

  • rate this

    Comment number 749.

    Cameron: North Korea has conducted its 3rd nuclear test; It could already have enough fissile material to produce more than a dozen nuclear weapons. "Does anyone seriously argue that it would be wise for Britain, faced with this evolving threat today, to surrender our deterrent?"
    I haven't read anywhere N. Korea is aiming so much as a pop-gun at UK.

  • rate this

    Comment number 748.

    And how does turning up in a Hummer decorated in stars and stripes confer status on Outsource UK?

    WHat about reality - AIPAC, for example.

  • rate this

    Comment number 747.

    Got to love how the prime Minister says "we need trident as a deterrent" but North Korea isn't allowed to have it as a deterrent against the west!
    As for the claims that North Korea not being a free country, It's not for the west to decide what North Korea should do. Didn't America fight for independence because they didn't want to be dictated to by the British.

  • rate this

    Comment number 746.

    What a filthy, lying pig this man is. Like we need Trident to fight N Korea and Iran. LOL! They think we're as thick as they are! And that will be their nemesis. They carry on like ants in a grass fire, totally incapable of any other behaviour than what they're pre-programmed to do.

    Don't vote. Waste of time and a farce.

  • rate this

    Comment number 745.

    Some of the comments on here are a bit naive and narrow. Of course sorting out the issues at home are important, but so it having the capability to defend ourselves and assets. We need to be at the leading edge of technology to survive from both a commerce and military perspective as reputable and lead nation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 744.

    For once in his life, Cameron is right. We need to keep it. It is our only real deterrent, as we've just about cut everything else!

  • rate this

    Comment number 743.

    Insuring our homes is probably a waste of money. But we would long regret it should the worst happen whilst uninsured. Trident is our national insurance policy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 742.

    Probably those in Iran and N Korea are sane enough to know not to launch a strike. However, deterrents don't stop the truly insane and only technology which could destroy the missile would help in those cases.

  • rate this

    Comment number 741.

    Last nuclear missile warranty ran out in short period of time.
    B- would not buy again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 740.

    Having gone to all the trouble and expense of becoming a nuclear weapon state, in an uncertain world, it would be utter folly to give it up. What contingency plans are in place to move the UK's nuclear deterrent from the Clyde should Scotland vote to secede from the UK and with it adopt a non-nuclear weapon defence policy?

  • rate this

    Comment number 739.

    "They got money for war, but can't feed the poor"

    Big waste of money, in fact there's a lot of money being wasted. If we are such special friends to America, then maybe we should give up the nukes, keep out of peoples business, and let America look after us.

  • Comment number 738.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 737.

    Getting rid of Trident would be a silly mistake. While nuclear weapons exist, the UK should have them. No matter what the cost. It's that simple. And Trident is the most effective means of delivery. It's a shame that many people don't understand the reality of the nuclear threat which still exists, and wan't somebody else to fight their battles for them. So weak.

  • rate this

    Comment number 736.


    If our deterrent is to work Cameron must be willing to press the button.

    What Camerons finger on the Nuclear Trigger. Well if he does happen for once to make a decision I doubt if he would press the Button. If he does fire it by mistake he will as usual blame Labour, we inherited it, the poor, anyone on benefits, the E.U. anybody else he can think of, which means the LIb Dems

  • rate this

    Comment number 735.

    #706 Scotland can have their oil money when their banks have repaid the british people every penny they owe us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 734.

    I really don't wan't to live in a world where the only nuclear powers are countries like N Korea and Iran and I don't think we should free-ride off the US for our security so yes its important we keep Trident.


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