British destroyer HMS Dragon arrived in Chile on Friday, November 28, to take part in the Exponaval 2014 exhibition, an international naval defense fair held at the Viña del Mar Naval Base on December 3-5.
The arrival of the HMS Dragon in Chilean waters, however, was poorly received in neighboring Argentina. Argentinean daily La Nación alleged that the visit violated a 2010 agreement, brokered by trade blocs Mercosur and Unasur, in which South American nations joined the government of Argentinean President Cristina Kirchner in closing regional ports and bases to UK Royal Navy (RN) ships and personnel.
The object of the blockade is to pressure the British government over its ownership of the Falkland Islands, a south Atlantic archipelago claimed by Argentina as the Islas Malvinas.
La Nación further suggested that that both Chile and Brazil provide wider logistical assistance to British units in the region, citing an anonymous high-ranking official in the Argentinean Ministry of Defense.
“There are different types of support: joint training operations, port assistance for British naval units, offshore refueling and repairs, or supply shipments disguised as ceremonial visits,” the official said.
Such claims are officially denied by the Argentinean government, and its counterparts in Brazil and Chile, but similar allegations were made by Andrés Cisneros, a former Argentinean vice-minister for foreign affairs and current adviser to opposition leader congressman Sergio Massa. Massa suggested in a book on Argentinean defense policy that RN vessels regularly collaborate with Brazil in protecting the latter’s vast offshore oil reserves, simultaneously benefiting from other clandestine alliances in the region.
Mercosur sources subsequently denied that the HMS Dragon’s presence in Chile contravened the 2010 agreement, stating that Argentina had been notified in advance of the visit, which involved no logistical assistance being given to the British Type-45 Destroyer. Chilean Defense Minister Jorge Burgos hailed the “excellent relations” between Chile and Argentina.
Chile has previously faced criticism for its support for the United Kingdom during the 1982 Falklands War.
The HMS Dragon, one of Britain’s most advanced military vessels, is set to replace HMS Iron Duke as the principal UK naval unit patrolling the waters of the Falklands.