Post by David Cosolo, Research Intern at ICSA
With a rapidly changing regional context and increasing tension from neighbouring states, Japan’s foreign affairs plate is very full. In the last seven months, North Korean nuclear tests, incursions into territorial water by Chinese vessels, and planned construction of Russian military bases in the disputed Northern Territories, are just a sample of the activities undertaken by regional actors in East Asia. Japan has approached these arguably aggressive activities, and subsequent perceived rise in tension, by showing off its muscle. Not the traditional military kind, but rather an unprecedented display, in Japanese terms, of diplomatic soft power. Continue reading
“We’ve got to have that thing over here, whatever it costs … we’ve got to have the bloody union jack flying on top of it” –Ernest Bevin
Ernest Bevin’s quote on nuclear weapons still informs much of the debate around the UK’s nuclear deterrent today.
What the then foreign minister said, in one of the secret meetings to discuss Britain developing nuclear weapons in 1946, has developed its own kind of folklore. Other oft cited reasons to highlight the supposed ridiculousness of British nuclear weapons such as using nuclear weapons to get America’s attention and to keep/get/retain the UK’s seat on the UN security council keep going around.
Ernest Bevin’s patriotic quote is in my opinion a terrible reason for developing nuclear weapons. But the decision to acquire nuclear weapons didn’t rest on the back of the comments of a single minister. The British Nuclear Experience, by John Baylis and Kristan Stoddart unravels the complex issues and multiple independent stakeholders involved in the UK’s decision to develop nuclear weapons. There was a ‘state of mind’ in UK nuclear culture that propagated the idea in UK strategic culture during the cold war. However, we are not held to the reasons of the past. We must dispassionately weigh the evidence on having a nuclear capability in the UK based on the today’s security requirements.