Liz Truss has defended the Falklands as “part of the British family” after China backed Argentina’s claim over the South American islands.
The Foreign Secretary tweeted that “China must respect the Falklands’ sovereignty” after Argentinian president, Alberto Fernandez, met with China’s President Xi on the fringes of the Beijing winter Olympics.
According to a statement on London’s Chinese Embassy website, the two leaders spoke of their “deep friendship” and Argentina signed up to China’s Belt and Road infrastructure initiative, a state-backed campaign for global influence.
But they also signed an agreement in which China reasserted its support for Argentina’s claim to the Falklands, while Fernandez backed Xi’s one-China policy, which claims Taiwan as its own.
The statement said Argentina should be able to “fully exercise its sovereignty over the Malvinas (Falklands) Islands issue”.
‘Part of the British family’
But Truss said: “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.”
Chen Weihua, a journalist for China Daily, an English-language newspaper owned by the Chinese Communist Party, replied to Ms Truss to say: “But it’s okay for UK to challenge China’s sovereignty in the South China Sea by sending navy vessels?
“At least China has not sent its navy near the Malvinas, or what you call the Falklands.”
Xi has also met with Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, in recent days, where the leaders pushed back against US pressure and declared their opposition to any expansion of Nato – a key issue in the current tensions on the Ukrainian border.
In a joint statement, they criticised “interference in the internal affairs” of other states and in a thinly veiled reference to the West, said: “Some forces representing a minority on the world stage continue to advocate unilateral approaches to resolving international problems and resort to military policy.”
China has increasingly shown support for Moscow in its dispute with Ukraine that threatens to break out into armed conflict.
‘Axis of power’
Conservative MP and chairman of the Commons Defence Select Committee, Tobias Ellwood, has warned of the coming together of China and Russia.
Following the leaders’ meeting, he tweeted: “Putin is not in China to discuss the bobsleigh but to further align Russia away from the West to the East. This is the axis of power that will dominate our era.
“Any sanctions we impose will only assist Putin with his aim. This is the bigger picture we are missing.”
On Sunday, Ellwood added: “With China now on side – the Russian invasion into Ukraine is now imminent.
“Our window for the West to prevent this is now closing fast.”
Last week in the Commons, he warned: “Putin is using the Ukraine crisis to realign Russia militarily, economically and geopolitically with China, which has massive security implications for the West.”
He said: “This is our Cuban missile crisis. I encourage Britain to lead the call to deploy an offensive alliance and stand up to Putin’s aggression.”