Argentina branded Britain’s plans to beef up its defenses in the Falkland Islands a “provocation” and a pre-election stunt Wednesday.
On Tuesday, British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon said London would spend Â£180 million ($268 million) over 10 years to counter “continuous intimidation” from Argentina in the disputed South Atlantic islands, which the two countries went to war over in 1982.
“This business from Great Britain is a provocation, not just to Argentina but also to the United Nations,” said Argentine Foreign Minister Hector Timerman.
The UN’s Decolonization Committee adopted a resolution last year calling on Britain to negotiate with Argentina on the islands’ status, as Buenos Aires has long demanded.
Britain argues the islanders should decide themselves which country they want to belong to. In a 2013 referendum, 99.8 percent voted to remain a British overseas territory.
Timerman said the British defense initiative “makes no sense.”
“We are committed to dialogue and international law,” he told local broadcaster Radio del Plata, saying Argentina would file a formal complaint with the UN and the Decolonization Committee.
President Cristina Kirchner’s cabinet chief, Anibal Fernandez, said the defense plan was less about Argentine threats than the campaign for Britain’s general elections on May 7.
“They’re facing elections so they resort to cheap nationalism to put all of British society on tenterhooks over a military matter,” he told a press conference.
Argentina invaded the Falklands, which it calls the Malvinas, in April 1982, sparking a bloody war that it lost in just over two months.
The conflict claimed the lives of 649 Argentine soldiers, 255 British soldiers and three islanders.
Argentina’s secretary for the Malvinas, Daniel Filmus, said it is “absolutely not the case” that Buenos Aires plans to repeat the invasion, launched under its military dictatorship.
“Since 1983, Argentina has again lived under a democracy and forcefully insists that there is only one path to regain sovereignty, the path of peace, diplomacy and negotiation,” he said.
Filmus said Britain’s real aim appeared to be “supporting the offshore oil rigs that are illegally pumping Argentine hydrocarbons” in the South Atlantic.
Argentina does not recognize Britain’s right to drill for oil in the region, where significant offshore deposits have been discovered in recent years.