The Falklands are “part of the British family”, according to Liz Truss, after China backed Argentina’s claims over the south Atlantic islands.

The foreign secretary wrote on Twitter that “China must respect Falklands’ sovereignty” after Argentina‘s President Alberto Fernandez met with Xi Jinping during the Beijing Winter Olympics.

The Chinese and Argentine leaders spoke of their “deep friendship”, in a statement on China’s London embassy website.

They agreed on an accord in which China reasserted its support for Argentina’s claim to the Falklands, while Mr Fernandez backed Mr Jinping’s one-China policy, which claims Taiwan as its own.

“The Argentine side reiterated its adherence to the one-China principle and the Chinese side reiterated its support for the Argentine side’s request to fully exercise its sovereignty over the Malvinas Islands issue,” the statement said.

British government officials have stayed away from the Beijing games as part of a boycott by several Western nations, in protest against human rights concerns.

Argentina also signed up to China’s Belt and Road infrastructure initiative, a global infrastructure development strategy adopted by Beijing in 2013.

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‘China must respect the Falklands’

However, Ms Truss said that the Falklands “are part of the British family” adding that “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,” she wrote on Twitter.

“China must respect the Falklands’ sovereignty.”

In response, Chen Weihua, who is a journalist for China Daily, an English-language newspaper owned by the ruling Communist Party, said: “But it’s okay 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.”

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China aligning with Russia

The joint Argentina-China statement comes after Mr Xi met with Vladimir Putin on the fringes of the Olympics, with the leaders pushing back against United States pressure and declaring their opposition to any NATO expansion – a key issue in the current tensions on the Ukrainian border.

Beijing and Moscow criticised “interference in internal affairs” of other states and said: “Some forces representing a minority on the world stage continue to advocate unilateral approaches to resolving international problems and resort to military policy.”

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China has more frequently shown support for Russia in its dispute with Ukraine, which threatens to break out into armed conflict.

Tobias Ellwood, a Conservative MP and chairman of the Commons Defence Select Committee warned following the meeting that the increased cooperation with China and Russia “will dominate our era”.

He wrote on Twitter: “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.”

Alternative to the liberal world order

On Sunday the MP added that “with China now on side – the Russian invasion into Ukraine is now imminent.

“Our window for the West to prevent this is now closing fast.”

As well as Mr Putin, Mr Xi, who has not left China since 2019, has met a range of world leaders visiting for the Olympic events over recent days, highlighting his moves to elevate himself as a major player in world diplomacy, while positioning China’s single party authoritarian political model as an alternative to the long-dominant liberal world order led by the United States.

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