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Dutch Leaders: F-35 Aircraft May Have Nuclear Role, Despite Controversy

The Dutch government has confirmed that F-35 jets it plans to acquire may be equipped to carry nuclear weapons, Dutch News.nl reported on Tuesday.

Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans and Defense Minister Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert informed parliament that the Joint Strike Fighter the Netherlands plans to procure from the United States could have a nuclear role, disregarding a 2012 motion approved by a majority of Dutch lawmakers that there be no atomic capability.

Parliament in November signed off on a government plan to purchase 37 F-35As to replace the Dutch air force's aging fleet of nuclear-capable F-16s.

The Netherlands is widely understood to host about two dozen U.S. B-61 gravity bombs at the Volkel air base. As part of NATO's policy of nuclear burden-sharing, the Netherlands and other European states hosting U.S. tactical weapons in theory are supposed to maintain a capability to deliver the bombs in a potential aerial strike.

There is considerable Dutch public opposition to continuing to host U.S. nuclear weapons.

The Dutch government told parliament that it would still advocate for nuclear disarmament, while continuing to have an atomic responsibility for the present time.

"We do not want to be tied to the standpoint set out in the motion," Timmermans and Hennis-Plasschaert said in their briefing.

The F-35A is slated to have a future capability to carry the B-61 bomb. However, some issue-experts think the U.S. Air Force is backing away from that plan.

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