The issue of British companies exploring for oil off the Falklands seems to be getting rather more fraught. A type 42-destroyer, the HMS York, was observed patrolling the neighbouring area, where Argentina has declared that drilling operations are illegal, and has introduced permits on ships that move from Argentine ports to the islands. The British prime minister, Gordon Brown, has warned Argentina that any disruption of links between the Falkland islands and the outside world would be met with force, including a survey vessel that is supported by a 1,000 strong land-based military detachment.
Mr Brown has emphasised that the security of the islands is maintained by Britain, including routine patrols and a deterrence force that "comprises a wide range of land, air and maritime assets." According to an MoD official, British interests in the South Atlantic are under the protection of warships, and if Argentina were to interrupt the free movement of shipping on the high seas, the action would be illegal and the decision would be made to employ the deterrence force.
The issue of sovereignty over the islands is sensitive, since Argentina claims them as its own and there is the matter of what oil and other mineral wealth might be garnered from within the 200 mile economic zone around the islands. According to the British, the Argentines are "posturing" in order to get hold of some of that wealth, in the form of future revenues, and the "recovery" of the islands which they term Las Malvinas is a major rallying theme of the nation's president, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.
Clearly this matter will not immediately go quiet, and probably not for many years, but I still doubt there will be an all-out military conflict between Britain and Argentine as happened in 1982. Since Britain is already involved in two wars, in Iraq and Afghanistan, do we really need another one?
"Royal Navy warships on standby over Falklands oil dispute," by Damien McElroy: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/southamerica/argentina/7266031/Royal-Navy-warships-on-standby-over-Falklands-oil-dispute.html
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