As the 30th anniversary of the Argentinean invasion of the Falkland Islands approaches, Britain and Argentina clashed at the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul on Tuesday when a Buenos Aires diplomat publicly accused London of sending a nuclear submarine to the South Atlantic.
At the same time, it emerged that six Nobel Prize winners have sent a letter to British Prime Minister David Cameron asking him to accept a UN petition to open a dialogue with Argentina over the Falklands. Among those signing the letter were South African Bishop Desmond Tutu, US anti-mine activist Jody Williams and Northern Ireland peace activist Mairead Corrigan.
In South Korea, Argentinean Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman didn’t mention the British government by name, but said in a speech before world leaders and delegates to the summit that an “extra-regional power” has begun “militarizing” the region.
“I want to bring to the summit’s attention the recent episodes of militarization in a de-nuclearized zone, where an extra-regional power has sent a nuclear submarine to an area that is the subject of a sovereignty dispute recognized by the United Nations,” said Timerman.
At the last minute, British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who was representing his country at the summit, quickly rewrote his speech to answer Argentina’s charges. “I am afraid I’m duty bound to respond to the insinuations made by the Argentinean delegation of militarization of the South Atlantic by the British government,” Clegg said. “These are unfounded, baseless insinuations.”
Britain has been carrying out a series of military exercises in the Falklands, which included a helicopter training mission involving Prince William.
But ahead of next Monday’s anniversary of the 1982 invasion, Falkland islanders have been on special guard. According to several news reports, residents have set up night patrols to watch for renegade attempts by any adventurous Argentineans who might want to make a territorial claim on the anniversary date.
In 1982 Britain and Argentina fought a 10-week war in which 649 Argentineans and 255 British troops were killed. Last month, Argentina filed a complaint with the United Nations after Britain sent a destroyer to the islands. The vessel is still docked in the Falklands.
Argentinean President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner has demanded that Britain open sovereignty talks but London has refused, saying that the 3,000 islanders want the archipelago to remain a British territory. The government in Buenos Aires has also announced that it will sue all international petroleum firms prospecting off the Falklands. The British company Desire began drilling for oil off the coast of the islands in 2010.
At the Seoul nuclear summit, Foreign Minister Timerman lodged another complaint, but this time against the United States for its decision on Tuesday to cut preferential trade tariffs to Argentina.
US Trade representative Ron Kirk explained in Washington that it was removing Argentina from the preferential tariff list because Buenos Aires had ignored decisions in international tribunals to pay $300 million to two US companies for actions the government took against them a decade ago.
Timerman called Washington’s move “lamentable” and “unreasonable,” and accused the Obama administration of bowing down to the firms’ lobbyists.