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[Published: Wednesday February 26 2020]

UK govt. under barrage of criticism for secretly inking nuclear deal with US

LONDON, 25 Feb. - (ANA) - The United Kingdom (UK) government has come under criticism after it transpired that the country has secretly committed itself to buying a new generation of nuclear warheads from the United States to replace Trident, a deal which will cost Britain billions of pounds.

The details of Trident renewal, which will be supported by US technology, were disclosed by two American defense officials in committee hearings earlier this month.

The clandestine nuclear arms deal London signed with Washington without public debate has angered MPs and experts who ask why they have learned of the move only after the decision was made. The agreement also raised questions about Britain's commitment to restricting nuclear proliferation and the country's reliance on the US for a central plank of its defense strategy.

"It is totally unacceptable that the government seems to have given the green light to the development of new nuclear weapon technologies with zero consultation and zero scrutiny," Ed Davey, acting leader of the Liberal Democrats, said.

"Britain under Johnson increasingly looks like putty in Trump's hands. That Britain's major defense decisions are being debated in the United States, but not in the UK, is a scandal. Under Johnson, it seems that where Trump leads, we must follow."

MP Stewart McDonald, who serves as the Scottish National Party's spokesperson for defense, said the defense minister should answer to parliament for the secrecy behind the deal.

A Green Party official also lamented the move, describing it as an example of "how it feels to live in a failed democracy."

The Observer, which originally reported the news, said that Washington had agreed with London not to make an announcement during parliamentary recess but the American defense officials were unaware of this agreement.

According to the Pentagon, the agreement involves the US sharing the technology used in its W-93 sea-launched warhead.

At a Senate hearing last week, Strategic Command Admiral Charles Richard said a replacement warhead was needed in the US.

"This effort will also support a parallel replacement warhead program in the United Kingdom whose nuclear deterrent plays an absolutely vital role in NATO's overall defense posture."

Meanwhile, Alan Shaffer, the Pentagon's deputy undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, said at a conference earlier this month: "I think it's wonderful that the UK is working on a new warhead at the same time, and I think we will have discussions and be able to share technologies."  - (ANA) -

AB/ANA/26 February 2020 - - -


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