May 12, 2017 / 12:10 PM / 4 months ago

UK's opposition Labour leader Corbyn says he is not a pacifist

Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of Britain's opposition Labour Party, leaves his home in north London, Britain, May 11, 2017. Picture taken May 11, 2017. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said on Friday he was not a pacifist and accepted that military action was sometimes necessary, as he sought to bolster his foreign policy credentials ahead of next month’s election.

Corbyn, a veteran anti-war campaigner who is opposed to nuclear weapons, has faced accusations from Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservatives that he would put Britain’s security at risk if he won power.

“I will do everything to protect the security and safety of our people and our country ... The best defense for Britain is a government actively engaged in seeking political solutions to the world’s problems,” he said in a speech in London.

“It doesn’t make me a pacifist. I accept that military action, under international law, as a genuine last resort, is in some circumstances necessary,” he said, adding that Labour would meet a NATO target of spending 2 percent of GDP on defense.

He criticized recent “unilateral wars and interventions”, saying the “bomb first, talk later” approach had failed and Britain should not just follow Washington’s lead.

“Britain deserves better than simply outsourcing our country’s security and prosperity to the whims of the Trump White House,” he said, adding that while he wanted a strong relationship with the U.S, he would also speak his mind.

“So no more hand-holding with Donald Trump – a Labour government will conduct a robust and independent foreign policy made in Britain,” he said, in a dig at May for holding Trump’s hand during a visit to Washington earlier this year.

Corbyn said Labour would support the renewal of Britain’s Trident nuclear weapons but if circumstances were reached where ordering their use was an option it would “represent complete and cataclysmic failure”.

A leak on Thursday of Labour’s draft manifesto featured on many of Friday’s newspaper front pages, with the Sun describing it as “Labour’s day of disasters” after a car carrying Corbyn ran over a BBC cameraman’s foot.

In a visit to the northeast of England on Friday, May, whose party has a big lead in opinion polls, sought the backing of working class communities, saying traditional Labour voters are increasingly “appalled” by what Corbyn believes in.

“Proud and patriotic working class people in towns and cities across Britain have not deserted the Labour Party – Jeremy Corbyn has deserted them,” she said.

“Corbyn has disowned and rejected the core values of Labour’s most loyal supporters to put his own extreme ideological obsessions first ... I will be reaching out to those who have been abandoned by Jeremy Corbyn and let down by government for too long.”

Editing by Stephen Addison

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