Argentine President Cristina Kirchner has claimed that the Falkland Islands serve as a nuclear base for the NATO alliance in the South Atlantic.
Argentina, which calls the archipelago the Malvinas, claims the British overseas possession as its own, and fought a brief but bloody war for it in 1982.
The islands, she said on Wednesday, “constitute a NATO military nuclear base in the South Atlantic – this is the truth that they can’t continue to hide.”
She alleged the archipelago is “among the most militarised areas in the world,” saying some 1500 soldiers and 2000 civilian military personnel are stationed there amid a population of just 1000.
Kirchner, who has a track record of controversial statements about the islands, said the British military manages its entire South Atlantic deployment and its electronic intelligence systems from there.
Britain called the claims “wholly false” and said UK forces numbers have declined to the “minimum necessary to defend the Islands.”
“With regard to nuclear weapons, the UK’s position is clear,” said a Foreign Office statement.
“The United Kingdom ratified the protocols to the Nuclear Weapons Free Zone covering Latin America and the Caribbean in 1969, and it fully respects these obligations.
“The UK will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapons states parties to, and in compliance with, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty,” it added.
Kirchner made the claims during a ceremony honouring the Argentine dead on the 32nd anniversary of the start of the conflict.
Argentine forces invaded the islands on April 2, 1982 but were forced to surrender 74 days later after a British expeditionary force recaptured them.
The fighting left 649 Argentine soldiers – many of them conscripts – dead, along with 255 British personnel and three civilian islanders.