Prime Minister David Cameron warned against any move to abandon the U.K.’s submarine-based nuclear weapons, citing a growing threat from North Korea and Iran as his Liberal Democrat coalition partners consider scaling back the missile program.
Writing in the London-based Daily Telegraph newspaper today, Cameron said it would be “foolish” to leave Britain without defenses at a time when the “highly unpredictable and aggressive” regime in North Korea is developing ballistic missiles that might eventually threaten Europe. In response to recent North Korean threats, the U.S. said yesterday it will deploy a missile-defense system to the Pacific island of Guam in coming weeks as a “precautionary move.”
“We need our nuclear deterrent as much today as we did when a previous British government embarked on it over six decades ago,” the premier wrote. “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.”
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats are coming to the end of their examination of the alternatives to the missiles system, known as Trident, in order to save money and regain supporters dismayed at the party’s alliance with the Tories. Possible conclusions to the review, which may be included in the party’s 2015 election manifesto, include sending nuclear-armed submarines out on patrol only 100 days a year instead of full-time.
The two parties have already clashed over the replacement of Trident. On Nov. 1, Conservative Defense Secretary Philip Hammond said an upgrade would be cheaper than alternatives being examined by the Liberal Democrats.
Cameron is in Scotland today to emphasize the job benefits of the defense industry before a vote next fall on whether the nation should become independent from the rest of Britain.
The premier will welcome home a submarine crew from their 100th patrol and visit crew from HMS Victorious, one of the Royal Navy’s Vanguard-class submarines, in the west of Scotland, and hold a question-and-answer session at a local defense contractor. He will tell workers the defense sector employs 12,600 people in Scotland, amounting to about 0.5 percent of the working population.
Other possible alternatives to Trident being looked at by the Liberal Democrats include using existing Astute-class submarines to carry missiles, rather than replacing the four Vanguard submarines, or an air-based nuclear deterrent.
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