Truss says Falklands part of ‘British family’ after China backs Argentina

Accord signed by Alberto Fernández and Xi Jinping at Winter Olympics also supports Chinese claim to Taiwan




Argentina’s Alberto Fernández and China’s Xi Jinping met at the Beijing Winter Olympics, where Argentina signed up to China’s Belt and Road infrastructure initiative. Photograph: Xinhua/Rex/Shutterstock


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 the Argentinian president, Alberto Fernández, met China’s President Xi on the fringes of the Beijing Winter Olympics.


According to a statement on the website of the Chinese embassy in the UK, 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 Fernández 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”.


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: “But it’s OK 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 Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, in recent days. The two 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, which is threatening to escalate into armed conflict.


The Conservative MP and chair of the Commons defence select committee, Tobias Ellwood, has warned of the coming together of China and Russia. After 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 onside, the Russian invasion into Ukraine is imminent. Our window for the west to prevent this is now closing fast.”