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Britain sending advanced warship to Falklands

The Royal Navy Type 45 destroyer HMS Dauntless arrives in her home port of Portsmouth in a December 2, 2009, file photo. A British minister will travel to the Falkland Islands in June to take part in commemoration of the 30th anniversary of Britain's recapture of the islands from occupying Argentine troops.

Britain's HMS Dauntless, touted as one of the most sophisticated warships in the world, will set sail to the disputed Falkland Islands in coming weeks in what the government called a routine operation.

The futuristic destroyer will replace the frigate HMS Montrose, the Ministry of Defense said on Tuesday. The deployment has long been planned but comes as tensions rise between Britain and Argentina over the status of the islands, which are a British dependency.

The Dauntless, armed with anti-aircraft and anti-ballistic capability, could "take out all of South America's fighter aircraft let alone Argentina's," one Navy source told the U.K.'s Telegraph.

The news comes shortly before Prince William, heir to the British throne, is due to arrive in the Falkland Islands as part of his air force training.

Britain accuses Argentina of 'colonialism'

Foreign Secretary William Hague told Sky News that while HMS Dauntless's deployment is routine, the British ship "packs a very considerable punch."

A Royal Navy spokesman downplayed the $1 billion destroyer's deployment and rejected that it was a sign of escalation in the tensions between the two countries.

"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 told the Guardian.

Last month, Argentina persuaded Brazil, Uruguay and Chile to join a Mercosur trade group resolution to turn away any ship flying the Falklands'flag — which depicts a sheep and a ship along with the United Kingdom's red, white and blue Union Jack.

Argentina claims sovereignty of the Falklands, 290 miles (460 kilometers) east of its coast. U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron has also recently stressed that the people of the Falklands must decide their own future and said Argentina is taking a colonialist approach to the islands' residents.

London's Foreign Office said Tuesday that junior minister Jeremy Browne will travel to the islands in June to mark the 30th anniversary of Britain's brief 1982 war with Argentina over the territory. Browne will be the first foreign minister to visit the Falklands since 2008. Prime Minister David Cameron's office said the British leader had no plans to visit.

Earlier this month, Britain announced that Prince Harry will visit Brazil in March as part of the U.K.'s effort to strengthen ties with Latin America.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Argentina says Prince William's deployment to the Falklands is provocative. Britain says his deployment is routine for a search and rescue pilot. The timing William's deployment is sensitive because it is has been thirty years since British forces liberated the Falkland Islands from Argentina. ITN's Bill Neely reports.

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