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RUSI at House of Lords International Relations Committee

News, 10 January 2019
Tom Plant, Director of Proliferation and Nuclear Policy, RUSI, gave evidence to the House of Lords International Relations Committee on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and nuclear disarmament

To watch the video, please click here.

To read the transcript, please click here.

Summary 

On Korea
“If the north and south could negotiate a broad freeze on North Korea’s nuclear programme—a freeze that is not in place at the moment; there is only a testing freeze—that could progress towards verification over a period of time, and at least almost to arms control rather than disarmament, in a year’s time we might be in a situation where we can talk about reductions, but it takes a while to get to that point. We must recognise that we are not in a disarmament paradigm with North Korea; we are in an arms control paradigm.”

On Arms Control
“[The UK should] describe in more detail the circumstances in which it might in future join strategic arms control multilaterally… At the moment, it has said only, ‘At the right time’, or, ‘At the appropriate time’. It has not said more than that. It has not said what other arrangements would need to be in place. Are we proceeding on the assumption for example that the UK would engage in strategic arms control only as part of a coalition or independently? Do restrictions on other weapons systems need to be in place before it does that? Would the collapse of the INF mean that the UK would be more or less inclined to engage in strategic arms control? Probably less, so perhaps the UK should say that”

On Arms Control Verification Research
“$25 million over five years is a tiny drop in the ocean of the UK’s nuclear defence enterprise… the US invested $25 million over five years under something called the Consortium for Verification Technology, including researchers in academia in various places such as Princeton, MIT, Illinois and elsewhere… The UK has not done anything like that, and it would be very easy, and comparatively cheap, for the UK to do that […]


On Disarmament
“I do not think that we should sit there and wait for the circumstances [for nuclear disarmament] to come to us. It is about how we play a part in creating those circumstances…”

“Internationally, the UK has played a fairly substantial role leading on arms control verification with non-nuclear weapon states... There is the question of what it is all about. Is it just about looking good? Is it about showing others how hard it is to disarm, in which case it is just messaging? Or is it about genuinely preparing for and creating the circumstances in which these techniques and tools could be used in the real world, and thus, because the technical reality moves on, creating a political opportunity for that to happen?”

“The UK has shown leadership in unilateral [nuclear stockpile] reduction. It has not shown leadership in the sense of taking things by the scruff of the neck… That is not to say that there should be a UK grand plan for global nuclear disarmament, but we should at least have a sense of the possible futures that we would sit in and how we would help those to happen. Waiting for the right time does not befit a member of the nuclear-weapon states group or a permanent member of the UN Security Council.”

On UK Nuclear Warhead
“The UK is going to make a decision on its new nuclear warhead by 2022. That is what it said in its 2017 update to Parliament. The 2018 update to Parliament says nothing about warhead timeline, which always sets alarm bells ringing. A commitment that the decision would be taken to Parliament would be very sensible. If it were not taken to Parliament, it would feel like concealment... Not to do that, having done it for Trident replacement, would seem to me again to be a step backwards.”

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Tom Plant
Director, Proliferation and Nuclear Policy

Tom Plant joined RUSI in June 2017 as the... read more

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