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 793.

    This was so predictable it's laughable! A minor tin pot dictator starts waffling about using what are in comparison unreliable nuclear fireworks to real weapons with proven delivery systems & our imperious 'leader'? uses it to try to distract from all the problems he's causing at home, the words distraction & bandwagon were the first I thought of when reading this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 792.

    So Dave thinks that North Korea is a threat to the UK?

    Truth is that their missiles only have the range of a good 3 iron off the tee and they would have to fly over the USA or Russia to reach the UK.

    I think Dave is telling porky pies again....

  • rate this

    Comment number 791.

    IF anyone reads Game of Thrones they'll realise how important keeping the Trident is.

  • rate this

    Comment number 790.

    @777, I don't think anybody has ever suggested nuking ones own territory i.e. the Falklands. Argentina maybe. In fact we should have nuked Argentina, an uninhabited region as a threat, no-one would have ever dared mess with us or threaten us ever again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 789.

    I rather we had no need for trident. Its a waste of a lot of money to put into something that we are hopefully never going to use. Money that could be put to great use on many other things.

    But, but, while others have them we should too. Its like an insurance policy.

    Perhaps if the US had no Nuclear capability, NK would have already used theirs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 788.

    MAD no-longer applies.
    Dave don't we have an anti missile system to deploy to protect us ?

    Or have we not committed to that arms chase.

    If a nation floated one up the Thames could not we deliver one curtesy of our special ops ?

    I am aware causing one to go off ain't easy but surely Dave can be given a row boat and hammer

  • rate this

    Comment number 787.

    737.Jonny MacD
    "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."

    So what is this reality then? I for one am not so sure there is a worthy battle to fight. It's a shame that many people don't think through issues more carefuly and accurately. So Dumb.

  • rate this

    Comment number 786.

    Leave Scotland, Cameron. You're not welcome here. And if you're so keen on having weapons of mass destruction, take them with you too and keep them on the Thames.

  • rate this

    Comment number 785.

    Attack as a method of defence only works pre-emptively and not with WMD. But Cameron can continue to try and offer jobs in Scotland for votes. It won't stop the independence movement, but he can try!

  • rate this

    Comment number 784.

    I would much rather £20bn got spent on engineering a system to defend us from incoming warheads than spend the same amount on re-arming ourselves with a weapons system so harmful and immoral that it'll never get used.

  • rate this

    Comment number 783.

    The UK should keep a nuclear capability. Not for posturing, not to give us a seat at the top table, but just as the ultimate defence deterrent.

    End of story really.

  • rate this

    Comment number 782.

    All these people saying we cant fire without the US's permission. YES WE CAN but it could result in them refusing technical support for the missiles because we buy the missiles from then not the warheads we build them ourselves so yes we could fire them on our own but that scares me due to the moron in number 10 . but we don't have to ask permission and we don't need a new trident this one is fine

  • Comment number 781.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 780.

    The decision to keep tridant is disgraceful.We spend an outrageous amount of money on these horrible things just to keep up the pretense that we are a big player on the world stage. think of the good things that could be achieved with this money, education, training, employment, healthcare.Our government should now keep its mouth shut about WMDs, we have no moral position from which to preach.

  • rate this

    Comment number 779.

    768.Jonathan - "......Someone said we cannot use Trident without US permission, not factually true......"

    Says he who has not bothered checking his facts - the guidance system used for Trident (without which they are useless) is run by the US.

    If they didn't want us to fire at someone we wanted to fire at they could just switch the guidance system off/block our access to it......

  • rate this

    Comment number 778.

    We absolutely have to retain this capability. Does anybody seriously think that places like N Korea and Iran would hesitate to threaten or attack us with nucular weapons if they knew we couldnt retailate in similar fashion? Only a fool would believe this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 777.


    Using nuclear weapons in the falklands war? The falkland islands would have been uninhabitable. Surely you are not implying keeping the option on the table for nuking the falklands or Argentina?

  • rate this

    Comment number 776.

    The effects of the nukes used in world war 2 are still being felt today,the power of those was nothing compared to the ones we have now.
    It matters not who strikes first as retaliation would be inevitable.
    Deterrant or not there can be no winner of a nuclear war

  • rate this

    Comment number 775.

    The UK must retain an independent nuclear deterrent as a weapon of last resort. David Cameron is right to highlight the potential threat to the UK and our NATO allies from North Korea, and Iran, and the possibility that other threats may emerge in the future for which we must be prepared.
    The UK does not require permission from the USA to launch its nucelar weapons.

  • rate this

    Comment number 774.

    If it is "foolish" for us to abandon our nuclear deterrent, how can it be sensible for Iran to abandon theirs? Iraq in 2003 shows that the West is prepared to engineer pretexts in order to commit war crimes attacking our Israel's enemies. Clearly international law cannot protect Iran from the likes of us. If they want to avoid 1M dead Iranians (cf Iraq) they need something more effective.


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