China backs Argentina over Falklands, angering Britain
In a statement on Sunday, China said it would support Argentina in its claims over the Falklands Islands – also known as Islas Malvinas – a self-governing British overseas territory in the southern Atlantic. The remote archipelago is a subject of an almost 200-year sovereignty dispute.
Beijing said that it hoped negotiations over the islands would resume soon in accordance with relevant UN resolutions to resolve the dispute peacefully.
China’s announcement, which was part of a joint statement on deepening relations between Beijing and Buenos Aires, has angered Britain.
“We completely reject any questions over sovereignty of the Falklands. The Falklands are part of the British family and we will defend their right to self-determination. China must respect the Falklands’ sovereignty,” Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said in a tweet on Sunday.
Argentinian President Alberto Fernandez met China’s President Xi Jinping on the fringes of the winter Olympics over the weekend. It is understood that Fernandez pledged to support China’s claims over Taiwan, which Beijing says is an inseparable part of the Chinese state. Taiwan maintains its independence and is de-facto ruled by its own government.
Buenos Aires links its claim to an inheritance from the Spanish crown when it gained independence in 1816. Britain says it had settled the islands before Argentina even existed.
The Falkland Islands were first settled in the 1760s and fell under British rules in 1833. Most of the 3,400 inhabitants are descendants of British settlers and are overwhelmingly in favor of retaining ties with the United Kingdom.
A 2013 referendum on the island’s political status saw 99.8% of votes cast in favor of remaining a British overseas territory.
In April 1982, Argentina’s military junta, suffering from large-scale civil unrest amid devastating economic stagnation, invaded the British overseas territory.
The political gamble resulted in a devastating loss for Argentina, with Britain sending an expeditionary force from 8,000 miles (12874.75 km) away.
The brutal, two-month long conflict also resulted in the deaths of some 900 servicemen and women, 649 of whom were Argentine.
Argentina surrendered the island but not its claims to sovereignty over it.