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Argentina’s decision to buy American-made F-16 fighter jets to cease Beijing’s momentum: Analysts

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With Argentina’s recent decision to purchase F-16 fighter jets made in the United States and its announcement in early April to collaborate with the US military on a naval base at the southern tip of South America, international affairs analysts see a shift in foreign policy that could have significant implications for both China and the United States, according to Voice of America.

For close to ten years, Beijing has been attempting to sell Argentina the JF-17 fighter jets that it co-developed with Pakistan.

According to Argentina expert Christopher Ecclestone of London, the decision was “pretty inevitable” given the pro-democracy, anti-communist stance of the recently elected Argentine President Javier Milei.

Certain Chinese pundits bemoaned the setback when Argentina chose to buy 24 F-16s from Denmark instead of accepting a rival offer from China.

Meanwhile, Rick Fisher, a senior fellow at the Washington-based International Assessment and Strategy Centre, said that Argentina was too close to surrendering itself completely to Beijing, and deepening military, political and economic cooperation with the nation. It would have terribly affected the US, however, Milei’s anti-communist stance has turned the tables, reported Voice of America.

China would have had access to Argentina’s defence and security infrastructure if it had been successful in selling the country its jets as well as other weapons, such as armoured vehicles, Fisher said, adding that “other Latin American countries would have been encouraged to follow in its footsteps.”

According to analysts, Milei’s choice to collaborate with the United States on a broader scale, encompassing a naval facility close to the Strait of Magellan, was as significant.

It had been extensively publicised that China was determined to work with Argentina to develop the facility.

Meanwhile, Milei stated in a speech earlier this month that Argentina and the US would work closely together to construct the Ushuaia naval facility. Following his flight from Buenos Aires to meet Ushuaia with US Army four-star General Laura Richardson, Milei made his statements, reported Voice of America.

This month’s trip to Argentina marked her third since assuming leadership of the US Southern Command in October 2021.

Richardson listed further planned or ongoing US arms exports and investments in Latin America, indicating that the country is beginning to pay more attention to the region after years of witnessing China’s gains south of its border.

Beyond the F-16 fighters and C-130 Hercules transport aircraft that the United States gave Argentina at the end of an 11-month lease, she stated the Argentine press that 250 Stryker armoured vehicles were planned. It has also been discussed to build a plant in Argentina to maintain the Strykers, according to Richardson.

According to her, other equipment, like King Air aircraft and P-3 observation planes, is also on the list of things that could aid Argentina with its coastal patrols.

In addition, Richardson revealed that the United States was nearing completion of the construction of an emergency operations centre in the western region of Neuquen, Argentina, where Beijing has been running a deep-space station since 2018.

According to experts, the station operates similarly to a Chinese military outpost abroad and is intimately associated with electronic and space warfare, which includes tracking and surveillance–a claim China refutes.