Dauntless deployment is not a sign of aggression

COMMENT: Attraction will capitalise on the riches in our midst

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We should not be surprised if the news that HMS Dauntless is to be deployed to the South Atlantic sparks cries of outrage in Buenos Aires.

In fact it would be startling if the decision did not give some in Argentina the opportunity to ratchet up their increasingly noisy claims that Britain is guilty of imperialism over our determination to maintain the Falkland Islands.

There has been a marked rise in tension between the two countries in recent weeks over the perennial question of the ownership of the islands. Those in Argentina who have again been protesting loudly will doubtless see the Dauntless deployment as a sign of aggression.

We hope that sager heads will prevail. Undoubtedly, anywhere that Dauntless or one of her sister ships is sent, they act as a sign of British naval strength to the degree that a frigate cannot match.

But it makes sense that the new £1bn Type 45 destroyers are sent on real missions as their sea trials are completed.

HMS Daring has already departed Portsmouth for her first mission to the Gulf at a time of deteriorating relations with Iran.

Now Dauntless will take over the navy’s South Atlantic role as Britain prepares to mark the 30th anniversary of the liberation of the Falklands after Argentinian invasion. Pragmatists in Buenos Aires will recognise that her deployment is not some ham-fisted attempt by Westminster to rattle a sabre at this emotive time, but a genuine use of a new asset.

Of course Dauntless will remind Argentine politicians of the navy’s strength, but then perhaps some of them need to be reminded of that anyway. Deterrent is the best form of defence and we hope that the presence of the destroyer in the South Atlantic will send a signal to those in Buenos Aires who would advocate a new trial of strength with the United Kingdom.

But that is very different to a show of naked aggression.

Dauntless is not being sent south to goad Argentina, but to remind her of our legitimate claims to islands whose inhabitants want nothing more than to remain British.