Thursday, September 27, 2012

Territorial Integrity vs. Self-Determination

The Falkland/Malvinas Islands sovereignty dispute is creating some new concerns for the United States.    Thirty years ago, Argentina invaded the islands claiming title to the territory after Spain granted Argentina independence.  The British dispute that title and claim that they have been in continuous control of the islands since 1833.  And indeed, all of the Islanders are of British decent and have been there for numerous generations.

That dispute mirrors another one more closely linked to U.S. interest -- Taiwan.  Last year the People's Republic of China publicly endorsed the Argentine position on the Malvinas Islands.  Jiang Shusheng, President Hu Jintao's special envoy and vice chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, said

“China will continue to support the Argentine claim of sovereignty over the Islas Malvinas . . . . [S]olidarity with Argentina on the Malvinas issue is an invariable position of China’s foreign policy.”

The British government is calling a referendum early next year that they claim will settle the sovereignty issue through the principle of self-determination.  Argentina, however, emphasizes the principle of territorial integrity -- because the Islands are so near its border, Argentina should control the territory.  And they have a lot of support: Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, with associate members Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela and Peru (if not all of Latin America) along with China, Syria, Tunisia, Congo and Russia.  Argentina is making a renewed campaign to work through the U.N. Special Committee on Decolonization.

Compounding the issue is the recent discovery of oil and natural gas near the Islands (some exploration wells were in undisputed Argentine territory).  Falkland Oil and Gas discovered up to 25 trillion cubic feet of gas in the Loligo field.  The United Kingdom would like to export from the Falklands to the Asian market, which could be more lucrative given the Japanese decision to move away from nuclear power in the wake of the Fukushima disaster.  Argentina has been aided by South American countries who have blocked maritime travel for ships flying the Falkland flag, which could make it impossible for the U.K. to export natural gas from the Islands.

The United States is also quickly becoming involved in the Falkland oil industry.  Falkland Oil and Gas recently sold 35% of its licenses other than to the Loligo fields to Texas-based Noble Energy.  And a joint Venezuela-Argentina oil exploration is adding a whole new dimension by including the vehemently anti-American Chavez regime in the Falklands dispute:

More from the Telegraph:

The United States risks being dragged into the growing political row over the Falkland Islands’ oil industry, after Texas-based Noble Energy became the first American firm to sign an exploration deal in the disputed territories. 
In a sign of the heightened tensions in the area, Noble’s deal with Falkland Oil and Gas Limited (FOGL) came as Venezuela said it would team up with Argentina to search for oil in waters neighbouring the Falklands.
Analysts said it was significant that Noble hailed from America - whose administration has refused to endorse British sovereignty of the Falkland Islands. Argentina claims sovereignty of the islands it calls Las Malvinas and has threatened to sue oil explorers.

1.  What does the United States value more, Territorial Integrity or Self-Determination?
2.  With that much international support what could Argentina do to gain leverage?
3.  What would the United States do, if anything, to help settle the issue?

Here's an interesting video that the Argentine field hockey team "secretly" filmed on the Islands at the end saying "To compete on British soil, we train on Argentine soil."

Here's some more background on this situation:
What does the international community think? 
Opinion is mainly sympathetic to Buenos Aires, backing calls for negotiations, although not necessarily endorsing its claim over the islands. 
Last December, regional trading bloc Mercosur, which groups Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay, showed its support by closing ports to ships flying the Falklands flag. 
China ratified its backing for Argentina's sovereignty claim last December, reciprocating Buenos Aires' support of Beijing's claim to Taiwan as a province. 
The European Union and the US say they recognize the "de facto UK administration of the Falklands/Malvinas", but take no position regarding the issue of sovereignty, which they say must be settled by the UK and Argentina. 
Russia limits its position to urging inter-governmental dialogue. However, some Russian commentators have suggested that Moscow should choose a side. 
"Latin America is a very important region for our country in economic, political and strategic (in the event of a sharp deterioration in Russian-American relations) terms," the country's international radio, The Voice of Russia, said in February. 
Sovereignty Timeline:
1765 - Britain claimed the Falkland Islands
1774 - Britain withdrew its settlement but kept its claim to sovereignty.
1820 - Newly-independent Argentina claimed sovereignty.
1833 - Britain established control over the islands in support of its own earlier claim to sovereignty.
1965 - The UN designated the territory as a "colonial problem".
1982 - Argentine troops set foot on the islands starting the Falklands War.
2009 - Britain rejected a request by Argentina for talks on the future sovereignty over the islands.

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