Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 31 July 2014

No evidence of threat to Falklands

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said there had been no recent change to force levels around the Falkland Islands

There is no evidence of any "current credible military threat" to the security of the Falkland Islands, the Defence Secretary has said.

Philip Hammond told MPs that despite media speculation there had been no recent change to force levels and there was "no current plan for significant changes to force deployments".

Speaking during Commons defence questions, Mr Hammond sought to quell recent heightened tension between Britain and Argentina by stressing it was "absolutely necessary" that Britain's intentions were "not capable of being misinterpreted" and the British Government had "no desire or intention to increase the heat" around the debate on the Falkland Islands' sovereignty.

However, he underlined Britain's commitment to defending the right of the Falkland islanders to self-determination, revealing that plans existed for rapid reinforcement of the land, sea and air forces in and around the islands, "should any such threat appear".

His comments came as Conservative mber Rudd asked whether Mr Hammond was "confident" that the UK had "sufficient naval assets in the area to prevent any naval attack".

Mr Hammond replied that the UK was "quite confident" that it had sufficient naval assets in the area and the ability to reinforce those assets "should there be any evidence of intent to any form of attack".

He said: "Despite media speculation to the contrary, there has been no recent change to force levels. There is no evidence of any current credible military threat to the security of the Falkland Islands and therefore no current plan for significant changes to force deployments.

"However, her Majesty's Government is committed to defending the right of the Falkland islanders to self-determination and plans exist for rapid reinforcement of the land, sea and air forces in and around the islands, should any such threat appear."

Conservative Desmond Swayne said "proper precautions" were absolutely necessary.

Mr Hammond replied: "It is absolutely necessary that our intentions are not capable of being misinterpreted. We have the strongest possible intention of defending the Falkland islanders' right to self-determination and the strongest intention to defend the islands."

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