UN Vote on Diego Garcia Island Imperils U.S. National Security – Bloomberg

A General Assembly vote to end Britain’s control of Diego Garcia island in the Indian Ocean imperils an irreplaceable U.S. naval base.

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Diego Garcia has handled everything from a three-masted warships to B-52 bombers. Photographer: Julian Herbert/Getty Images

What does one of the world’s largest marine sanctuaries have to do with U.S. national security? Quite a lot, actually: The island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean’s Chagos Archipelago, lying just south of the equator and 2,000 miles east of Africa, hosts arguably the most important U.S. military base for U.S. operations in the Middle East and Afghanistan. And you don’t have to climb the yardarms to see trouble on the horizon.

This week the United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to force the U.K., which colonized the islands during the Napoleonic wars and now controls them as a British Indian Ocean Territory, to return them to Mauritius, which achieved independence from Britain in the mid-1960s.

The nonbinding vote affirmed a ruling by the International Court of Justice earlier this year holding that “the process of decolonization of Mauritius was not lawfully completed when that country acceded to independence” and that “the United Kingdom is under an obligation to bring to an end its administration of the Chagos Archipelago as rapidly as possible.”

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As with so many UN votes, it’s purely symbolic, and the U.K. has no intention of gifting the archipelago to Mauritius, an island nation roughly 1,400 miles to the southwest. But the crushing vote of 116 to 6 certainly gives momentum to the movement against the U.K. In addition to Britain, the nations voting against the measure were the U.S., Hungary, Israel, Australia and the Maldives, a rival Indian Ocean nation. Perhaps the biggest blow: Most of the U.K.’s key allies, including France and Germany, abstained.

There are prominent supporters of Mauritius’s claim in Britain as well: Jeremy Corbyn, who will be the next prime minister if Britons prove as misguided as the Americans who elected Donald Trump, tweeted this:

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