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 853.

    @688. Pandatank

    The other use for trident... didn't anyone tell you, weapons of war is big business for our government. We live in an INSANE world run by INSANE men with no morals, dignity, or ethics. Death, violence, and fear is all these sad little men have to fuel their ego's and make themselves feel like powerful men. Sad and very pathetic.

  • rate this

    Comment number 852.

    The meek will not inherit the earth. The violent ones need to understand (and for now they do) that they will not get away with aggression. Self-defence is not a crime.

  • rate this

    Comment number 851.

    They build one because we build one.

    Contrary to unpopular belief, no-one (except perhaps the US) wants to annihilate anyone with nuclear weapons. The action has no value. NK and Iran are no nuclear threat whatsoever. Wars are still being fought around the world, and people still dying, with regular bullets penetrating regular skulls.

  • rate this

    Comment number 850.


    You need to consider the future - not just the present. If the west decommissioned all it's nukes and let Iran and N. Korea continue building them, they could hold us to ransom in 10 years or so and we would be effectively at their mercy. Besides, we also need to continue developing the technology to prevent potential large asteroid strikes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 849.

    We should all thank Lieutenant Colonel Stanislav Yevgrafovich Petrov of the Soviet Air Defence Forces.that we are all still here today.

  • rate this

    Comment number 848.

    What utter drivel (mess. 780). Your stance means the North Koreans and their ilk would carry on unopposed something akin to a chap named Hitler in the 1930's!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 847.

    @826.Lucky White Heather
    "Why so the separatists want nuclear weapons out of Scotland, yet they voted to stay under the NATO nuclear umbrella?"

    Most members of Nato don't have nuclear weapons.

    I don't want WMD based in Scotland. I will be voting for independence to be rid of them and their tory supporters. Westminster no more.

  • rate this

    Comment number 846.

    I find Cameron's logic here absolutley bizarre. We need nuclear weapons to stop nations like this threatening us. They are threatening the largest nuclear power in the world, the US!

  • rate this

    Comment number 845.

    And what effect would Trident have on N Korea? Clearly the substantial US nuclear arsenal is no deterrent to them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 844.

    So we are essentially all chipping in for a doomsday device capable of killing millions and then handing the controls over to people most of us wouldn't trust to run a chip shop?

    I feel safer already.

  • rate this

    Comment number 843.

    Mr Cameron

    You say there is no money to pay for pensions which we have paid into all these years but lo and behold you can find money for this. Have you been lying to us?

  • rate this

    Comment number 842.

    @826 - maybe because the non proliferation treaty which we are signed up to advocates getting rid of all nuclear weapons. So Scotland could very well be part of a de-nuking NATO.

  • rate this

    Comment number 841.

    @824 Err we all do pay for healthcare it's called National Insurance. It's a much better insurance policy than nuclear weapons as well because all of us will actually use it!

    The biggest threat to you and me is heart disease and cancer, not North Korea or Iran. Yet you want the money to "protect" us against the latter not the former.

    Like you say the world is a crazy place!

  • rate this

    Comment number 840.

    Tim Nice But Dim could have said it like he believed it. Cameron must hate being such a puppet.

  • rate this

    Comment number 839.

    What's happening in the world now is very dangerous. Why have they let it escalte - no one is trying to have talks to calm the situtaion down. Threats of using nuclear weapons should not be happening in the end no one's a winner. Watch Youtube drama by the BBC called Threads, very powerful should be shown to leaders of the world it show's dire/destructive consequences of a nuclear war

  • rate this

    Comment number 838.

    Saddam had WMDs - remember that? Oh...

  • rate this

    Comment number 837.

    738. cj8652
    1. Agreed
    2. Agreed
    3. Salmond wants to remain in NATO so not a lot of choice there!
    4. Scotland's resources? Oil? You mean Shetlands resources.
    5. More of a bonus for England than Scotland!
    6. How would it be better than it is now? Answers please!
    7. Agreed
    8. As at 3 above.
    9. How would independence improve your infrastructure?
    10.Really! Where would the money come from?

    Dream on!

  • rate this

    Comment number 836.

    As a person from Weymouth who remembers the royal navy and fleet air arm being based in Portland

    May i suggest that if Scotland decides to go independant. May i suggest Portland with its natural deep water harbour and historic ties with the navy as the base to replace Faslane .

    As a side note,I fully support Nuclear Power. . Green Energy will not supply 66 million people in UK.

  • rate this

    Comment number 835.

    815. Jim Dunstan
    Cant we use something cheaper like bomber launched icbm ?


    Of course we can, but that wouldn't hand billions of pounds to the vested interests and lobbyists who have been shmoozing our politicos for years.

    Always easy to sell a duff system to the plebs and dimwits by drumming up a few WMD and nuke scare stories.

  • rate this

    Comment number 834.

    Appreciate the comment from 780.peter and respect the view. However, the biggest drain on the public purse is an outdated NHS - make people pay for healthcare, an education system run by dinosaurs only interested in themselves and not the people they are there to educate and a benefits system open to cheats with no accountability. The world is a crazy place, we need to protect ourselves.


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