Argentina has reacted angrily to Britain’s plans to beef up and modernize its military installations in the Falklands Islands over the possibility of an invasion by the government in Buenos Aires.
Argentinean Defense Minister Agustín Rossi on Tuesday called the British decision “madness,” and said there had been no official communication from London explaining the plan. Rossi stressed that there was there no Argentinean policy contemplating an invasion.
British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon told parliament on Tuesday that there was “a very live threat” that Argentina might invade the South Atlantic archipelago as the then-military government did 33 years ago in 1982.
His comments came after British tabloid daily The Sun reported on Monday that Argentina has asked Russia to help it rearm so it could take over the islands. Last December, the UK press also reported on an alleged agreement by Argentina to purchase Sukhoi SU-24 bombers from Russia.
Although the agreement has not been officially announced, Fallon said Britain had a right to defend itself from any threat.
We will continue to defend the right of the islanders to maintain their way of life against whatever threats
may arise” UK Defence Secretary Michael Fallon
“We will continue to defend the right of the islanders to determine their future and to maintain their way of life against whatever threats may arise,” he said.
Next year Britain intends to deploy two Chinook helicopters to the Falklands and renew a surface-to-air missile defense system. London will also upgrade communications at the Royal Air Force base in Mount Pleasant and modernize Mare Harbour.
The number of British military and civilian personnel will be kept at around 1,200.
The Falkland Islands are home to about 3,000 people, mainly of British origin.
After Fallon made his statements, Argentina’s ambassador in London, Alicia Castro, said her government represented “no threat” to Britain.
“There will never be another war in the Falklands because that was clearly an objective of the military dictatorship [1976-1983] so it could remain in power,” she told Radio del Plata station.
She said Britain’s plans were an excuse for the military lobby to spend more money.
“Each time more questions are raised by British society, which sees all of this as useless during an economic crisis. They are spending an unmeasurable amount of money to maintain 2,000 men on a remote island to prevent an invasion that is never going to occur,” she said.
Over the next 10 years, the British government intends to spend around £180 million to protect island residents, who in 2013 voted to remain a British overseas territory in a referendum.
Argentina and Britain are still engaged in a dispute over the islands. The government of President Cristina Kirchner de Fernández has demanded that London enter sovereignty talks with Argentina but London has used the referendum to argue that the Falklands are non-negotiable.
A short war took place when the military government in Buenos Aires launched an invasion on April 2, 1982. It ended on June 14 that year with the Argentineans expelled from the islands.