April 05, 2013

North Korea threat sparks Trident cheerleading from Cameron

Contributor:  Andrew Elwell
Posted:  04/04/2013 

In an article inThe Daily Telegraph today, David Cameron has used the backdrop of North Korea's increasingly "aggressive regime" as a platform to advocate the need to replace Trident, the UK's nuclear armed submarine capability.
"We need our nuclear deterrent as much today as we did when a previous British Government embarked on it over six decades ago," said Cameron.

"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."

The Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government is ideologically opposed on the issue of nuclear deterrence. The junior collation partners are seeking alternatives to the costly Trident programme, which is currently in a new design phase as Cameron and his Defence Secretary, Philip Hammond, push forward on a direct like-for-like replacement.
Last year Hammond announced that a £1 billion deal has been struck to develop the next generation of nuclear reactors that will replace Britain's current Vanguard class submarines, which carry the Trident nuclear weapons.
Around the same time The Henry Jackson Society, a cross-partisan British-based think-tank, released a report entitled 'The Necessity of Nuclear Deterrence.' In the report, Peter Cannon argues that Trident "provides a deterrent effect which no other military capability could match. Other nuclear powers are not considering giving up their nuclear weapons, countries such as Iran are seeking nuclear weapons and we cannot predict what threats may emerge in the future.

"For the capability which it offers, the UK's nuclear deterrent is good value for money.
"Alternative systems offer an inferior, not an improved capability. Land-based missiles are vulnerable to pre-emption.  Cruise missiles are slower and fly lower than Trident ballistic missiles and would require a new missile and warhead to be designed. Any alternative system which ended the principle of continuous at-sea deterrence would leave the UK vulnerable to a pre-emptive strike and remove the guaranteed 'second strike' capability offered by Trident."
Although a recent poll by Defence IQ indicated that the threats and rhetoric from North Korea were unlikely to evolve into anything other than bluster, all respondents underlined the Kim dynasty menace and warned that its actions should not be taken lightly.

The mocking, pop culture references to North Korea are ubiquitous. It can be difficult to establish the credibility of North Korea's actions, but Cameron isn't being complacent.

"The highly unpredictable and aggressive regime in North Korea recently conducted its third nuclear test and could already have enough fissile material to produce more than a dozen nuclear weapons," said Cameron.
"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. Can you be certain how that regime, or indeed any other nuclear armed regime, will develop? Can we be sure that it won't share more of its technology or even its weapons with other countries?

"Does anyone seriously argue that it would be wise for Britain, faced with this evolving threat today, to surrender our deterrent?"

Where do you stand on Trident? With Cameron and a like-for-like replacement? Or are there cheaper, better alternatives? Send in your views to haveyoursay@defenceiq.com.

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