Defence Secretary rejects claims Britain is unable to defend Falklands

 

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond today rejected claims Britain would be unable to defend the Falklands against a fresh Argentinian assault as both countries mark the 30-year anniversary of the conflict in the South Atlantic.

Click HERE to view 'Falklands War: A look back in 50 photographs' gallery

Speaking as Britain's new Joint Forces Command comes into effect, Mr Hammond said Britain would "robustly" defend the islands against any attack and insisted "we have the assets, the people, the equipment in place to do so".

Admiral Sir John Woodward, who led the taskforce to recover the islands in 1982, earlier told The Times while Britain is without an aircraft carrier it would not be able to repeat the successful mission of 30 years ago.

Meanwhile, Argentinian president Cristina Fernandez will use the landmark date to make a major speech and lead hundreds of rallies across Argentina as she renews calls for Britain to cede sovereignty over the islands.

Mr Hammond said: "We are very clear that our position in relation to the Falklands is that we will be robust in defence of the Falkland Islands, but we do not intend to repeat the mistake of 1982 and allow the Falklands to be taken from us.

"We will defend them robustly, we have the assets, the people, the equipment in place to do so.

"Despite the rhetoric of the media, there is no evidence at all of any military intention by Argentina nor any military capability by Argentina to attempt to retake the Falkland Islands."

He continued: "I have said very clearly, we are not going to lose the Falklands.

"We have the assets in position on the Falklands which we didn't back in the early 1980s that will enable us to see off any acts of aggression.

"I emphasise again, there is not the slightest intelligence to suggest that there is any credible military threat to the Falklands."

HMS Dauntless is due to sail from Portsmouth to the Falklands tomorrow - a day before the 30th anniversary of the British task force sailing to war in the South Atlantic.

The destroyer, the second of the Royal Navy's new Type 45 air defence destroyers, is said by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to be a routine mission to take over the patrols of Plymouth-based frigate HMS Montrose.

The Argentine government has threatened legal action against British and American banks involved in advising UK companies exploring for oil in the Falklands.

But Downing Street said today the move was not in Argentina's "own interests".

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "We don't think it is in their interests or our interests.

"We are a big investor in that country. We think they are acting against their interests if people are attacking shops and branches of banks in Argentina."

Amid the commemorations, the naval officer responsible for co-ordinating the torpedo attack which sank the General Belgrano, creating a turning point in the Falklands War, said today that he had no regrets.

Vice admiral Sir Tim McClement was second-in-command of the submarine HMS Conqueror which fired the torpedoes at the Argentinian warship, causing the loss of 323 lives.

At the time, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was heavily criticised for the move as the ship was outside an exclusion zone and was heading away from the Falklands.

Speaking to the Portsmouth News, Sir Tim said: "There is no doubt in my mind that sinking the Belgrano was absolutely the right thing to do - firstly for survival in case the pincer movement worked against our carriers and secondly it demonstrated intent to the Argentinians."

Earlier, David Cameron issued a statement to mark the anniversary of the conflict.

He said: "Thirty years ago today the people of the Falkland Islands suffered an act of aggression that sought to rob them of their freedom and their way of life.

"Today is a day for commemoration and reflection: a day to remember all those who lost their lives in the conflict - the members of our Armed Forces, as well as the Argentinian personnel who died.

"Today, we salute the heroism of the Task Force which set sail to free the islands.

"We are rightly proud of the role Britain played in righting a profound wrong. And the people of the Falkland Islands can be justly proud of the prosperous and secure future they have built for their islands since 1982.

"Britain remains staunchly committed to upholding the right of the Falkland Islanders, and of the Falkland Islanders alone, to determine their own future.

"That was the fundamental principle that was at stake 30 years ago: and that is the principle which we solemnly re-affirm today."

Further reading:

Falklands War: A look back in 50 photographs
Shots across the bows: The images that defined the Falklands War
'It gets worse as you get older': Falklands survivors reveal how they deal with the memories

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Nick Clegg on the campaign trail in Glasgow on Wednesday; he says education is his top priority
peopleNick Clegg remains optimistic despite dismal Lib Dem poll ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Buttoned up: Ryan Reynolds with Helen Mirren in ‘Woman in Gold’
filmFor every box-office smash in his Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. Now he says it's time for a reboot
News
people
News
Actress Julianne Moore wins the Best Actress in a Leading Role Award for 'Still Alice' during the 87th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood, California
people
Sport
Ross Barkley
footballPaul Scholes says it's time for the Everton playmaker to step up and seize the England No 10 shirt
News
'We will fix it': mice in the 1970s children’s programme Bagpuss
science
Life and Style
2 Karl Lagerfeld and Choupette
fashion
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

£23000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing boutique prac...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Executive

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Retail Buyer / Ecommerce Buyer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working closely with the market...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - CAD Software Solutions Sales

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A reputable company, famed for ...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

Paul Scholes column

Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?