“Any foreigner near that base is not a good idea. It is a strategic location and we don’t need anyone nearby,” noted the Republican congressman in an interview with Lusa News Agency, as part of a visit to Portuguese naval defence facilities, following a meeting of Portuguese-American legislators at the weekend.
“For 70 years, Lajes has been a strategic location, not only to protect US security forces, but also to protect the United States, and that is still the case, and will always be the case, unless the islands disappear for some reason,” Nunes said.
Nunes’s response to foreigners near Lajes follows criticism of China’s economic expansion in several parts of the world, including the Azorean archipelago, which is an autonomous region of Portugal located in the mid-Atlantic Ocean.
In October, during an official visit to China, the Portuguese Prime Minister, António Costa, said “the base in Azores is very important militarily-speaking, but also in terms of logistics and technology and research on deep water and climate change.”
Answering a question in an interview with Bloomber, Costa said, “Of course it’s a good opportunity to create a scientific research platform and we are open to cooperation with all partners, including China.”
Costa made it clear, however, that “military use of the base is not on the table, what is on the table is re-using the facility for research purposes.”
“I am very concerned about any foreign involvement, not only on that base, but in any other one in the world,” Nunes said on Monday, criticising the policies of the previous US government.
“The problem is that in the last eight years, in the prices of consolidation and downsizing, we ended up with people placed in the most expensive locations in Europe, when Lajes can clearly house 2 or 3,000 people.”
According to Nunes, “Financially this makes no sense for the US taxpayer and putting that strategic location at risk is totally unacceptable.”