The British-German naval action off the River Plate and the capture of a merchantman off the Chilean coast have served as a test of South American opinion as to the value of the continental ``safety belt.'' Argentina, as one of the Atlantic countries which attempted patrolling, has shown interest in Pan American consultations, but, here as elsewhere, there is no enthusiasm for juridical haggling over belligerent incursions into a maritime area of some 5,000,000 square miles. . . .

Argentina, acting by arrangement with Uruguay and Brazil, organized patrols, but did so with mental reservations. It knew that the significance of the ``safety belt'' was largely symbolical and that other South American countries, especially those on the West Coast, could not afford patrols on a similar or any adequate scale. . . .

No southern power, including Argentina, took the 300-mile limit as something to be enforced by arms. . . Broadly speaking, South America relied on the symbolical character of this safety zone proclamation in the hope of reducing the number of neutrality violations.

The Monitor is looking back at the events of World War II.

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