The Duke of Cambridge will fly to the Falkland Islands tonight to begin a tour of duty as tensions rise between Britain and Argentina over sovereignty.
2:46AM GMT 01 Feb 2012
Yesterday it emerged that one of the Royal Navy’s most advanced new warships is being sent to the area.
HMS Dauntless, a Type 45 destroyer, is due to set sail for the South Atlantic on her maiden mission in the coming months to replace frigate HMS Montrose.
Today it was confirmed that the Duke of Cambridge will begin his six-week deployment as a helicopter pilot earlier than expected. He will fly out from RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, tonight.
He will be crewing one of two search-and-rescue helicopters on call 24 hours a day for missions flying out of a large British military base, 45 minutes from Stanley, the islands’ capital.
Argentina’s foreign ministry slammed Prince William’s visit, saying that the heir to the British throne would be arriving as a “conqueror.”
However, the Ministry of Defence stressed that the mission was routine and a Royal Navy spokesman rejected suggestions the decision to send the ultra-modern destroyer to the region represented an escalation of the UK’s position.
”The Royal Navy has had a continuous presence in the South Atlantic for many years. The deployment of HMS Dauntless to the South Atlantic has been long planned, is entirely routine and replaces another ship on patrol,” he said.
David Cameron and Argentine President Cristina Fernandez have previously accused each other of ”colonial” behaviour.
Referring to the deployment of HMS Dauntless and William’s tour of duty as an RAF search and rescue pilot, Argentina’s Foreign Ministry last night said it ”rejected the British attempt to militarise (the) conflict”.
It also expressed regret that an heir to the throne would arrive wearing ”the uniform of a conqueror”.
”Governments should avoid the temptation of falling into a discourse … that aims to distract public attention from belt-tightening economic policies,” the ministry said in a statement.
Argentine official Sebastian Brugo Marco last year said the country could not ignore the ”political” implications of William’s deployment.
”It is one more provocative act that shows Britain’s military presence in a zone of peace where there is no armed conflict,” he said.
Following his remarks, the Chief of the Defence Staff denied that sending the Duke to the Falkland Islands was designed to provoke Argentina.
General Sir David Richards dismissed the claims, saying: ”I can absolutely tell you it wasn’t and isn’t designed to be.”
Gen Richards stressed William’s deployment was routine for an RAF Sea King pilot, pointing out Prince Harry was sent to Afghanistan as a forward air controller in 2008.
It has also emerged that UK Foreign Minister Jeremy Browne will be visiting the islands in June to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the war.
Mr Browne yesterday told the Commons the Government had resisted Tory calls for the Falkland Islanders’ right to self-determination to be written into a new UK law.
He insisted legislation was unnecessary as he stressed the islanders’ ability to decide their own future was ”non-negotiable”.
Tory MP Guy Opperman had called for the islanders’ right to determine their own future to be enshrined in UK law.
The Duchess of Cambridge is to use Prince William’s tour of duty in the Falkland Islands to launch herself as a solo member of the Royal family
Since the royal wedding last April, she has carried out only one public engagement without Prince William.
That was when the Prince of Wales was forced to pull out of a charity dinner at Clarence House in October because he had to fly to Riyadh to pay his condolences to the Saudi royal family after the death of the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. His “darling daughter-in-law” agreed to step into the breach.