Argentina’s government has called on the United Kingdom to provide detailed information about the alleged movement and use of nuclear weapons during the 1982 South Atlantic conflict, after a report revealed that as many as 31 depth charges were sent to sea near the disputed Malvinas (Falkland) Islands during the war.
Last week, the Declassified UK website reported that a number of British warships deployed to the South Atlantic following Argentina’s invasion of the disputed islands were armed with dozens of nuclear depth charges.
According to the report, aircraft carriers HMS Hermes, HMS Invincible and the Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship, Regent, carried 31 nuclear weapons in total to the region’s seas, though no ship encroached upon the “total exclusion zone” around the islands imposed by the UK government at the time.
The article, written by veteran defence and security journalist and author Richard Norton-Taylor, said that new files released to the National Archives revealed that the presence of nuclear weapons had “caused panic among officials in London” who were concerned by the potential damage the “nuclear depth bombs” could cause if they were “lost or damaged.”
Responding to the revelations, Argentina’s Foreign Ministry warned this week that if it did not receive answers from the British authorities, it would take “measures” and “raise this situation before the competent international bodies.”
"Despite the UK's reluctance to provide detailed information on the matter, our country has on several occasions expressed its concern before different international fora about the possibility, confirmed in 2003, that the UK had introduced nuclear weapons into the South Atlantic," said a statement from the Palacio de San Martín.
Raising the possibility that Britain may have breached the 1967 Treaty of Tlatelolco (which established a nuclear free zone in Latin America and its seas), the Foreign Ministry said that it is essential to “ensure that there are no nuclear weapons anywhere in the South Atlantic, either in sunken ships, on the seabed or under any other form or circumstance."
Argentina and the UK maintain a sovereignty dispute over the islands, over which they fought a war in 1982 that ended 74 days later with the surrender of Argentina, then ruled by a military dictatorship. During the war, 648 Argentines and 255 British died.