Ground Report | New Delhi: Falkland Island controversy; The UK reproaches China for supporting Argentina’s territorial claims over the British-run Falkland Islands. As relations with China have already been strained on multiple fronts, including Britain’s joining a US-led diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics to protest China’s human rights record.
Chinese President Xi Jinping in a meeting with Argentine President Alberto Fernandez issued a joint statement that said China “reaffirms its support for Argentina’s demand for the full exercise of sovereignty over the Malvinas Islands,” using the Argentine name for the territory. The two leaders met as Fernandez was in Beijing for the Winter Olympics.
The joint statement backed each other’s territorial claims – the Falkland islands for Argentina and china’s over Taiwan.
The UK’s Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said in a tweet that, the United Kingdom “completely" rejects 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,” she wrote.
The Chinese embassy in the UK said that China firmly supports Argentina's sovereignty claim over the Islas Malvinas, in response to the UK's call to "respect Falklands' sovereignty." "China has always maintained that territorial disputes between countries should be resolved through peaceful negotiations in line with the purposes and principles of the UN Charter," a Chinese embassy spokesperson stated.
"We hope Britain will actively respond to Argentina's request, start dialogue and negotiations as soon as possible with a view to finding a peaceful, just and lasting solution in accordance with relevant UN resolutions," the spokesperson said.
Relations China and Argentina
Relation between the two has existed for decades. Argentina is one of China’s main trading partners in South America. China overtook Brazil as Argentina’s largest trading partner and is a major buyer of Argentinian soybeans and beef. China invested in large projects in Argentina such as roads, railroads and shipping ports to increase export profitability to China.
Argentina became a member of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank in March 2021, and following Fernandez FEB 2022 meeting with Xi Jinping in Beijing, Argentina joined China’s Belt and Road Initiative Argentina’s entry into this initiative is a significant advance in Beijing’s bid to strengthen ties with Latin America.
Argentina became the first among Latin America’s major economies to join Beijing’s initiative; a platform for Chinese investment in railways, ports and highways worldwide. Fernandez was one of the few leaders from South America – considered to be “America’s backyard” – to attend the opening ceremony amid a diplomatic boycott by the United States and other Western countries. The two sides pledged closer ties in trade, currency, agriculture, energy and other areas after a meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Fernandez.
Falkland Island controversy
Since it is the 40th anniversary of the war this year, Argentina has been single-mindedly engaging regionally and internationally, to assert its stance on the sovereignty of these islands and this joint statement by Beijing and Buenos Aires is among the most prominent of these engagements.
Since the 18th century, the Falkland Islands, located off the coast of Argentina in the south Atlantic Ocean, have always been subjected to colonisation and conquests by Britain, France, Spain and Argentina. Prior to the 1700s, the islands were uninhabited, with France first establishing a colony there in 1764. The next year, when the British arrived to claim the islands for themselves, it marked the start of a dispute that has been ongoing ever since.
By 1811, colonial powers had left, with the islands largely being used and visited by sealing and whaling ships. But in November 1820, an American privateer David Jewett once again kick-started a fresh dispute that till then had significantly subsided, by claiming possession of the islands on behalf of Argentina. There are varying opinions by academics on whether this possession was undertaken specifically on instructions from Argentina or whether Jewett unilaterally made such a decision.
Over a period of two decades, minor conflicts followed between Argentina and Britain, with both asserting dominance over the other, alternatively finding victory in the conflict. That ended in 1840 when the Falklands became a Crown colony and Britain sent Scottish settlers to officially establish a community, one that was largely pastoral. (Falkland Island controversy)
Strategically, the Falkland Islands were important to Britain and that was evident in how they were used by London as a military base in the South Atlantic Ocean, both during the First and Second World War. However, following the end of the Second World War, the islands once again became a cause of dispute between the United Kingdom and Argentina, with both asserting sovereignty over the islands.
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