Why all the attention on the Falklands? Five key questions.

Thirty years ago today, Argentina occupied an archipelago 300 miles off the coast of South America in the South Atlantic controlled by the British called the Falkland Islands. The “Falkland Islands War” lasted less than three months, but it led to more than 900 causalities by the time Argentine forces surrendered the following June.

The islands, known as the “Malvinas” in Argentina, are still bitterly disputed, and tensions have reached a fever pitch recently, especially as Prince William wrapped up a deployment as a Royal Air Force helicopter pilot to the islands.

What are the Falkland Islands?

Gary Clement/Reuters/File
Falkland islands: A King Penguin crosses in front of a flock of Gentoo Penguins near Port Stanley in this May 2010 file photo.

The Falkland Islands (known as the Malvinas among Argentines) are an archipelago 300 miles off the coast of South America. Two main islands and hundreds of smaller ones make up the territory, which was reportedly first sighted in 1592.

The French, Spanish, and British all established settlements there, but after Argentina declared independence, the South American nation laid claim to the islands in 1820. The British then claimed sovereignty in 1833, and have ever since.

Today about 3,000 people live there. Residents have enjoyed full British citizenship since 1983. Their economy, with a GDP of about $165 million a year, is fueled by fishing and sheep farming. Tourists are also drawn to the view of millions of breeding penguins.

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