British Prime Minster David Cameron has said he would send troops to the Falkland Islands if Argentina attempts to invade and retake the territory. Aggressive rhetoric has recently flared between London and Buenos Aires.
Speaking on the BBC’s 'Andrew Marr Show,' Cameron emphasized the UK’s “extremely strong” position after Argentinian President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner renewed her charge that the islands were stolen by Britain.
Kirchner has taken out advertisements in British newspapers saying in an open letter – initially sent to David Cameron – that the islands were taken from Argentina in a “blatant exercise of 19th Century colonialism.”
The move was in response to an advert placed by UK tabloid the Sun in English-language daily the Buenos Aires Herald, which warned Argentina to keep its “hands off the islands,” and claimed that British sovereignty over the isles dates back to 1765.
But Argentina-based journalist Daniel Schweimler told the BBC that across the entire country, Argentinians “believe that the Falklands belong to them.”
Opinion polls suggest that about two-thirds of Argentinians support Kirchner’s position on the Falklands.
Kirchner argued in her letter that in 1833, argentinians on the island were expelled, and “the United Kingdom subsequently began a population implantation process similar to that applied to other territories under colonial rule.”
The British Foreign Office posted on its website that an interim governor appointed by ministers in Buenos Aires was murdered by his own men, and a British warship subsequently “told” his 24-man garrison to leave.
The Falklands dispute has renewed in recent years – in 2007, Argentina reasserted its claim over the islands. Kirchner’s position has hardened since the discovery of potential oil reserves off the islands, as well as last year’s 30th anniversary of the Falklands War.
Argentina invaded the Falklands – known as the Malvinas in Argentina – in May of 1982. Then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher sent a task force to retake the islands, sparking a conflict that saw 255 British soldiers and 649 Argentinian troops killed.
Asked if Britain would defend the territory again, Cameron replied, “Of course we would, and we have strong defenses in place on the Falkland Islands, that is absolutely key, that we have fast jets stationed there, we have troops stationed on the Falklands.”
Cameron has been warned by admirals in Britain’s Royal Navy that the UK may no longer have the capability to retake the islands if Argentina invades. The UK no longer has any aircraft carriers, and the two being built won’t be ready until 2016 at the earliest.
Neil Clark, a writer and a journalist has told RT, that the British government would favor a conflict with Argentina, because of Cameron’s public rating.
“For Cameron, for this issue to come up now is timely, because the government is way down in the opinion polls. The government is very unpopular. I can’t recall a government becoming so unpopular so quickly. So I think he would want to keep this in the news headlines,” Clark said.
Historian Hugh Bicheno told RT in May that the British “learned nothing” from the 1982 Falklands War. In a controversial book about the war called 'Razor’s Edge,' Bicheno argues that the fight could have gone either way at any time. He also claimed that in 1982, when the Royal Navy was far bigger than it is today, Britain did not have the capability to launch large-scale overseas military operations.
But Cameron insisted that Britain’s defenses are sufficient. “I get regular reports on this issue because I want to know that our defenses are strong, our resolve is extremely strong,” he said.
Cameron has maintained that Falklanders should be allowed to decide for themselves if they want to remain British or be governed by Buenos Aires.
“The future of the islands should be determined by the Falkland Islanders themselves, the people who live there. Whenever they have been asked their opinion, they say they want to maintain their current status with the United Kingdom,” Cameron told reporters during a January 3 visit to Preston.
Falklanders are holding a referendum on the issue later this year, and Argentina should respect their vote, which has Cameron's “100 percent backing,” he added.
In a further escalation of the row between Argentina and Britain, cruise ships headed for the Falklands have been subjected to intimidation and protests upon docking in Buenos Aries.
There have been at least 12 reported incidents of cruise liners being disrupted, including officials refusing permission for entry into Argentinian ports, ships being delayed, and masked militants attacking and ransacking shipping company offices.
Many cruises will now no longer call at the Falklands – denying the islanders of an important source of income – in order to appease authorities in Argentina.
Last month, the UK government formerly summoned Argentinian Ambassador Alicia Castro to protest the incidents.