Britain's defense secretary has paid tribute to fallen British veterans on a visit to the contested Falklands Islands.

Michael Fallon was the first British defense chief to visit the islands in more than a decade.

The defense ministry tweeted a photograph on Tuesday showing Fallon standing in front of a memorial to the fallen. He bowed his head in front of an obelisk that read: "In Memory of Those Who Liberated Us."

Britain reclaimed the islands in 1982 several months after they were seized by Argentine forces. The remote islands in the South Atlantic are claimed by both countries. Argentina calls them the Islas Malvinas.

British officials say they are respecting the will of the Falkland islanders who voted overwhelmingly in a referendum in 2013 to remain a British territory.