President Joe Biden is set to land in the UK today amid an international row over the US supplying cluster bombs to Ukraine.
The trip, which the White House hopes will “showcase the president’s leadership on the world stage”, is expected to be dominated by the weapons and Ukraine’s potential NATO entry.
Biden has committed to sending Kyiv the weapons, despite many military allies prohibiting their use, while Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has warned against the move ahead of the visit.
Sunak said Britain “discourages” the weapons as one of the 123 signatories of a convention banning the bombs for their devastating impact on civilians.
While Labour’s Rachel Reeves told Sky News she is concerned about the plans to supply cluster munitions, saying they are not “appropriate weapons” to send to the Ukrainian army.
Asked about Biden’s commitment by the Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme, Reeves said: “We all agree Ukraine needs to be properly armed to fight Russia and their illegal invasion.
“But I am concerned about the use of cluster bombs, and it is not just the UK who has these concerns, other countries clearly do as well.
“I would like to find a way to properly arm Ukraine but without using these weapons which can have an impact, not just on the battlefield… but for months and years afterwards.”
She added: “I am not convinced that these are the appropriate weapons.”
Biden has said it was a “difficult decision” to send cluster bombs to Ukraine and sought to justify the move as needed to fortify Kyiv’s depleting ammunition stocks.
Cluster munitions deploy a large number of bomblets across a wide area, and unexploded bomblets can continue to pose a threat to civilians long after conflicts end.
The Convention on Cluster Munitions prohibits their use or stockpiling because of their indiscriminate effect on civilian populations. The US, Ukraine and Russia are not signatories.
But Sunak said the UK supports it, telling broadcasters: “The UK is signatory to a convention which prohibits the production or use of cluster munitions and discourages their use.”
Biden will meet Sunak on Monday, before the two leaders attend a summit in Lithuania on Tuesday where they will discuss support for Ukraine and its future membership of NATO.
He will also meet the king at Windsor Castle, but the trip is not considered as a state visit.