Why Britain and Argentina are tussling, again, over the Falklands
Britain's decision to send a new, more powerful warship to the Falkland Islands has ignited a long-simmering territorial dispute that came to war decades ago.
Decades of sharp exchanges between Britain and Argentina escalated this week as Argentina reasserted its claim to the Falklands Islands, a territory about 300 miles off the Argentine coast that has been ruled by Britain since 1833. Britain responded, as it always has, that it has no intention of giving the islands up.Skip to next paragraph
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Today, as the 30th anniversary of the two nations’ war over the South Atlantic's Falklands approaches, tensions have risen, with Britain accusing Argentina of “colonialism” for pursuing its claim.
On Jan. 30, Britain announced it was deploying the destroyer HMS Dauntless to the South Atlantic, replacing a less powerful warship that is there now. Today Prince William, second-in-line to the British throne, began his Royal Air Force posting to the Falklands – arriving, as many Argentineans saw it, in “the uniform of the conqueror," even though he is flying a search-and-rescue helicopter.
The Royal Navy denies either move is significant, saying it has long had a presence in the South Atlantic and the replacement of one warship with another is “routine.”
The two-month Falklands War, which began when Argentina invaded the islands with little warning in 1982, resulted in the death of 255 British and about 650 Argentinean soldiers. After almost three peaceable decades, tensions began to boil over once again in 2010, when British oil companies showed an interest in oil exploration near the Falklands. Argentina decreed that ships passing through its waters to the islands would require permits.
In June 2011, Argentinean President Cristina Fernandez described Britain as a “crass colonial power in decline” after it refused to hold talks over the islands. Britain has said it will only agree to talks if Falkland residents – who are British citizens and wish to remain British, the government argues – request them.