30 years on: London and Buenos Aires mark the Falklands invasion
Commemorations to mark the 30th anniversary of the Argentinean invasion of the Falklands Islands will take place in London and Buenos Aires today, amid heightened tensions between the two countries.
"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," David Cameron said in a statement.
"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 Argentinean personnel who died."
He added: "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."
Argentinean war veterans took part in a series of marches ahead of a speech by president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner this lunchtime. She will deliver the speech by a monument representing the map of the islands and a cenotaph with the names of those killed in combat.
Shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy said: "The conflict 30 years ago was in defence of a sovereign British territory which had been invaded. Something more important than empire's legacy was and is at stake: the universal right to self determination and our belief that diplomatic dispute should be resolved by democracy rather than the uptake of arms."
Defence experts used the anniversary to warn the UK might be unable to replicate the military operation today given the extent of defence cuts under the coalition government.
A report from the UK National Defence Association (UKNDA) yesterday said that while Argentina could easily put almost all of its armed forces into an invasion, a British response would consist of "just four Typhoons, a Type-45 Destroyer, and Rapier short range missiles around Mount Pleasant airfield"”.
The authors, which included senior figures from the Royal Marines, the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force, said that while Argentina had officially renounced a military solution to the dispute, its military planners repeatedly map out how they would retake the island by force.
"Even in the most favourable circumstances… the deployment of additional fighters and a reasonable war-fighting force would take approximately a week," the authors wrote.
"In effect, this means that the British garrison would necessarily have to hold Mount Pleasant airfield and its environs for a week before help arrived."
The build-up to the anniversary has been marked by escalating diplomatic attacks from London and Buenos Aires, which began when the South American state convinced fellow members of the regional Mercosur group to ban ships with the Falklands flag using their docks.
That effort to internationalise the dispute was replicated at the UN and in a series of celebrity endorsements of Argentina's claim, including from actor Sean Penn.
Britain replaced a frigate with HMS Dauntless, one of the navy's new Type 45 air defence destroyers. Argentina said the move "militarised" the dispute, a view that was compounded by the presence of Prince William on a routine search-and-rescue deployment.
The successful retaking of the Falklands Islands by British forces in 1982 saw the UK military stretched to its absolute limit and prompted almost-universal outpourings of support domestically.
The successful campaign is widely credited with keeping Margaret Thatcher in power and cementing her international reputation.