Britain to upgrade Falklands defences: minister

24th March 2015, Comments 0 comments

Britain is set to boost military defences in the Falkland Islands in response to the "very live threat" from Argentina, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said Tuesday.

He was speaking ahead of a statement to parliament where he was to announce the results of a review into the maritime and air defences of the South Atlantic archipelago.

Argentina claims sovereignty over the islands, which it calls the Malvinas, and launched an invasion in 1982. Argentine forces were expelled after a brief war, in which more than 900 soldiers were killed, and relations between the two countries have been tense ever since.

"We do need to modernise our defences there, to ensure that we have sufficient troops there and that the islands are properly defended in terms of air defence and maritime defence," Fallon told BBC radio.

"The threat of course to the islands remains, but so does our commitment to being absolutely clear that the islanders have the right to remain British and the right to proper protection by our forces."

He added: "The threat remains, it's a very live threat, we have to respond to it and I am responding to it this afternoon."

Any change in the Falklands defences is likely to be viewed as a provocation by Argentina, which in November filed a formal complaint following British military exercises carried out 350 kilometres (217 miles) east of its mainland.

Tensions have resurfaced between the two countries in recent years following the discovery of significant offshore oil deposits close to the islands.

Argentina wants Britain to agree to bilateral talks on the sovereignty of the archipelago. London maintains there is nothing to discuss.

The Falklands War cost the lives of 649 Argentine soldiers, 255 Britons and three islanders.

© 2015 AFP

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