Brown: Britain prepared to reduce nuclear submarine fleet

The cut in nuclear submarines could save the UK £3 billion and promote nonproliferation, the government says.

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Britain is prepared to reduce its number of submarines capable of launching nuclear deterrent missiles, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown will announce today at the United Nations General Assembly. The move has been widely praised as an important concession to demands for global nuclear nonproliferation. Some analysts say, however, that the reduction is a cost-cutting measure that will have little impact on the overall efficacy of Britain's nuclear arsenal.

At Thursday's UN Security Council, Mr. Brown will reiterate his commitment to cut the number of Trident missile-carrying submarines from four to three, according to the BBC. Britain is currently committed to building four new submarines by 2024 to replace the Vanguard class of boats. He will make the announcement at a Security Council meeting chaired by US President Barack Obama that will focus on replacing the Non-Proliferation Treaty with an agreement designed to stop countries developing nuclear weapons. However, Brown will reiterate that keeping nuclear missiles is "nonnegotiable."

The announcement follows a wide-ranging op-ed in The New York Times in which Brown stated that "a new nuclear nonproliferation agreement is needed urgently" and called on nuclear states to reduce their nuclear weapons.

In Britain, Brown's announcement is being seen as a major step toward cost-cutting, reports the Guardian.

British government officials say the announcement is a way "to ensure Britain played its full part in global disarmament talks rather than simply a way to save up to £5bn," reports The Independent, adding, "however, the planned scaling down of Trident is the most graphic sign of the public spending cuts to which Mr Brown committed himself last week to balance the nation's books."

Another article in the Guardian points out that reducing the number of submarines was the "easiest and cheapest option open to the government." .

The Financial Times reports that Brown's announcement about the submarine reduction is a strategic diplomatic move.

Blogging for The Spectator, David Blackburn points out that Brown's announcement could help pull Iran into discussions about its nuclear weapons.

Whether motivated by financial pressures or meant as a fillip for global nonproliferation, Brown's announcement is welcome in the UK. According to the Guardian, a recent YouGov poll showed that 63 percent of Britons oppose the government's plan to renew the Trident nuclear deterrent.

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