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 893.

    These are truly disgraceful comments form camoron, using the North Korea situation to justify the spending on defence projects like trident and the aircraft carriers. The only ones who will benefit are the tories friends in big business.

    Trident and the aircraft carriers should be scrapped, we do not need them. The billions saved should be invested in the public services like health & education.

  • rate this

    Comment number 892.

    It’s Cameron, racing up the right wing, facing up to Salmond, he tackles, he gets the ball, he’s making his way to the goal mouth – HE SHOOTS – HE SCORES – right in the back of the net ! GOAAAAAALLLLLLLL! (oh dear – he was facing the wrong way!)
    - So far, he’s come up with the most convincing argument for independence I can think of!

  • rate this

    Comment number 891.

    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.
    If you mean that a bomber could take a 15 hour flight and then get shot down down, then yes we could use bombers.
    What did you say about dimwits?

  • rate this

    Comment number 890.

    @ 181.Ross
    Nuclear weapons, like any other technology, develops over time, hence the need to replace them. Also, in case you didn't realise, radioactive materials by their nature decay over time, whether you use them or not.

    I'd also love to see you design a submarine that could stay in service for 100 years!

  • rate this

    Comment number 889.

    864.Martin Upham
    This is the man who whose crazed austerity programme

    Crazed austerity ??? What choice does he have ? Labour spent all the money before they got the heave-ho - you should be complaining about them. How much did they waste on Iraq, which wasn't even a threat to us ? And you criticise the conservatives for having to cut spending to keep the country afloat ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 888.

    Regardless of whether we should or shouldn't have nuclear weapons, the real question is whether we would ever use them or not. The answer to that question is clearly no. Is David Cameron implying that if North Korea or Iran threatened or even fired a missile at us we would retaliate by firing 1 back. Of course we wouldn't. We would target their missile launchers with cruise missiles.

  • rate this

    Comment number 887.

    'Defence spokesman Angus Robertson said: "The (Scottish) parliament and 80% of the people of Scotland want to get rid of Trident...'
    Sorry Angus, but I don't remember being asked.

  • rate this

    Comment number 886.

    Peter while I agree with your point regarding the amount of money we spend I also think your argument is somewhat naive on the basis that there is a constant global threat, not just from NK, and we need to be able to defend our country with as much, if not more, 'sting' than any potential threats. I agree with both Tim and Darren - I'd rather have it and not need it, than need it and not have it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 885.

    Of course DC would say that from the safety of a government nuclear bunker.The defense of this country is based on a system called MAD Mutual-Assured-Destruction (Catch-22) If there were any survivors the world would have turned to Hell and they would only be the walking dead.

  • rate this

    Comment number 884.

    How much more will we need to take off the poor, disadvantaged and desperate to pay for this? We still have an 18th century colonial foreign & defence policy attitude.

  • rate this

    Comment number 883.

    Unfortunately the UK was and always has been a major player with both Iran and North Korea. And with regards to the Korean conflict the UK lost almost 15,000 troops in the war with the North, we seem to have forgotten this piece of history; the North Koreans certainly won't have and therefore to them we still are a justifiable target. Know your history before you comment.

  • rate this

    Comment number 882.

    As an ISLAND dependant on other countries for much of our food and raw materials, we need a strong, robust Royal Navy to keep those supply lines open. If that navy must draw its strength from submarines, then so be it! Its time we got shot of the bleeding heart Liberals once and for all!

  • rate this

    Comment number 881.

    What a complete WASTE of £20 billion. Who's gonna nuke us?? Iran? North Korea? You're joking aren't you? The Yanks'd blow 'em away before they even got a firework rocket airborn. Britains nuclear 'deterrent' is (and always was) a total waste of money. More money for Cambornes 'mates' in the city.

  • rate this

    Comment number 880.

    864.Martin Upham
    I am ex forces and although I dont want nuclear weapons I realise that they are a neccessary evil. Your reference to the Scots is irrevelent although I hope they vote for independance as it will be more likely we retain a tory government.

  • rate this

    Comment number 879.

    As I see it, we will NEVER use it first - it will always be "in response", by which time we won't be that bothered anyway.
    No, it's major value is as a deterrent. So, why not tell everyone that we've invested the squillions in new missiles, but really just build big cardboard smarties tubes and spend the money on something worthwhile.
    Perhaps that is exactly what Mr Cameron is doing.........

  • rate this

    Comment number 878.

    Here's a thought:

    £20bn to keep these Nuclear Bad Boys
    Based on North Korea's GDP only £40bn to buy them?

  • rate this

    Comment number 877.

    After we chuck them out, those in England shouldn't worry about having enough destructive nuclear power to blow up half of western europe in their backyard - as we have had in the west of Scotland for years.
    After all, the Brits have been telling us how safe they are for years....

  • rate this

    Comment number 876.

    @837 - you need to check out a map, the oil fields, UNCLOSIII and the fact Shetland would have a 12 mile EEZ as an enclave situated off of Scotland if independent. Guess what - no oil within 12 miles of Shetland. It's Scotlands or the UK's. rUK or an independent Shetland would have NONE of it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 875.

    Is £20 Billion really better spent on keeping our UN security seat than on the NHS?

    Cameron is on the same level here as the Iraqi WMD in 45 minutes claim based on a hand grenade for the war on Iraq.
    Neither N Korea nor Iran have credible weapons that get anywhere near the UK in the foreseeable future. Even if they eventually did,
    Israel would first strike on Iran, & the USA on N.Korea.

  • rate this

    Comment number 874.

    Yes. We must keep Trident and a strong armed forces. Cutting the UK military is the way to be bullied in the future. Learn the lessons of history, every time we have run down our millitary it has cost the UK a great deal more to build it up again. If the Labs and LIbs want to save money then scrap HS2, Green Energy and Foreign Aid. The UK would then be solvent.


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