PMQs: Johnson slams opposition over Falklands reaction
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The South American country has threatened to escalate the issue if more details emerge of nukes in waters around the Falklands Islands – known in Argentina as Islas Malvinas. The now declassified document headed “Top Secret Atomic” reveals HMS Hermes carried 18 of the lethal weapons, HMS Invincible transported 12 while the rest were conveyed on a ship of the Royal Fleet named Regent.
Prince Andrew served on HMS Invincible during the conflict, which lasted from April 2 until June 14, 1982.
Declassified UK reports that the document reveals the great concern felt by British officials at the time over the possible political fall out which might result from the misuse of the weaponry.
One fear expressed by Ministry of Defence (MoD) officials was that “nuclear depth bombs” could be lost or damaged and the public would find out about it.
An MoD report notes: “The international repercussions of such an incident could be very damaging”.
Another document states that there was no risk of an atomic bomb type explosion, but warned that in the event of a device being damaged, it could cause up to 50 deaths from cancer.
The weapons also sparked a heated row with the Foreign Office asking the MoD to “unship” the weapons, according to the news website Declassified UK, which uncovered the document.
However, the Navy reportedly refused to give in to the Foreign Office demand.
It stated that in the event of tension or hostilities between the UK and Soviet Union around Operation Corporate – the codename given to liberating the Falklands – the military capability of British warships would be severely reduced.
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One MoD official reportedly stated that even if there was no pollution in the event of a damaged or sunken nuclear weapon, the Argentinians might obtain nuclear technology and the British Government might then have had to face “acute embarrassment in the non-proliferation field”.
The Foreign Office was reportedly also anxious about the presence of the weapons due to the 1967 Treaty of Tlatelolco which established a nuclear free zone in Latin America and surrounding waters, including the Falklands.
Britain had signed and ratified the treaty’s protocols although other countries, including Argentina, had not done so, according to Declassified UK.
The MoD admitted in December 2003 that British ships carried nuclear weapons in the Falklands War. However, details of the numbers transported and by which ships only came to light after the document was released to the National Archives.
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According to RT’s Spanish edition, the Argentine Foreign Ministry announced that if more details were to emerge it would raise the issue with the appropriate international organisations.
A statement on the Ministry’s website says that in 2003, its officials protested to the UK and requested details to ensure there are no nuclear weapons anywhere in the South Atlantic, “on sunken ships, the seabed, or under any other form or circumstance”.
The statement says: “If the existence of declassified files that provide more details regarding the seriousness of the events disclosed in the press is confirmed, due to the magnitude and circumstances that have been revealed, the Argentine government will reiterate its claim to the government of the United Kingdom and within the framework of [its] invariable policy against nuclear weapons as well as their use, foresees raising this situation before the competent international organisations”.
Guillermo Carmona, head of the Argentine Foreign Ministry’s Malvinas Secretariat, told Sputnik he was dismayed at the revelation.
Mr Carmona said: “Forty years after the Malvinas War, we continue to be concerned, based on the revelations that we are seeking to confirm and of which we have become aware, about the presence of nuclear weapons.
“They give greater seriousness to the facts that were already confirmed and protested by Argentina.”
He added: “Since 2003, information confirmed by the British Ministry of Defence itself confirmed the presence of nuclear weapons in the Malvinas War.
“The United Kingdom maintained that it had not violated the Treaty of Tlatelolco and stated that those weapons had been removed and deactivated.”
The MoD has been contacted.
Additional reporting by Maria Ortega
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