SLUG: 2-271048 British Nukes (L) DATE: NOTE NUMBER:










INTRO: A newly-published report says the British government hid nuclear weapons in Cyprus and Singapore during the Cold War without telling the respective host governments. The findings are published in the latest issue of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. V-O-A's Michael Leland has more.

TEXT: The article says Britain deployed tactical nuclear weapons to a Royal Air Force base in southern Cyprus in 1960. These weapons were to be used in the event of a global war involving the Western allies and the Soviet Union.

The publisher of the Chicago-based Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Stephen Schwartz, says Britain began storing nuclear weapons aboard its navy vessels in Singapore in 1962.

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They were deployed to Singapore to support the British commitment to the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization. They would have been used if war had broken out between the SEATO powers and China.

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The article was written by Richard Moore, who is working on a book about the Royal Navy and nuclear weapons. He gathered his information by sifting through recently declassified British government documents from the Cold War era. These papers suggest neither Malaysia's government which ruled Singapore at the time, nor the Cypriot government knew the nuclear weapons were being stored within their borders. Mr. Moore cites one document, written by a British Air Ministry official, as saying, "all possible measures should be taken in Cyprus to conceal the arrival and storage of nuclear bombs."

Bulletin publisher Steven Schwartz says the decision to keep the weapons' presence a secret suggests they were intended more as weapons of last resort, rather than to deter the use of nuclear weapons by Britain's adversaries.


That is the tricky thing about deterrence. In order for it to work, you have to basically show your hand. Although Britain could have made some noises diplomatically and made some references to being able and willing to use nuclear weapons in certain circumstances, it felt for various internal and external reasons, mostly diplomatic, that it could not afford to acknowledge the existence of these weapons in the locations where they were.

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A Cypriot government spokesman said this month (1/2) Britain has given assurances it no longer stores nuclear weapons on the island. But the spokesman added that Cyprus is not at all pleased it once had nuclear weapons within its borders.

The article is the third in a series on worldwide deployment of nuclear weapons. Past articles examined the United States deployment of thousands of nuclear weapons during the Cold War, to places that included Iceland and Japan. Mr. Schwartz says the articles are meant to enlighten the world about the realities of nuclear weapon movement during the Cold War.

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Because I think a lot of people tend to believe that the Cold War ended and we sort of wiped the sweat off our brow and said, "Whew, that was a close one. Boy, we survived it." We want people to be aware that there were very real risks - and are very real risks today - associated with how these weapons were stored and maintained and deployed.

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The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists is a non-technical publication addressing issues of science and international security. It is also the publication that maintains the so-called "Doomsday Clock," which is the Bulletin's assessment of how close the world is to nuclear catastrophe. Since 1998 the clock has been set at nine minutes to midnight. (signed)