800.014 Antartic/12–2447: Telegram

The Chargé in the United Kingdom (Gallman) to the Secretary of State


6619. We have discussed Instruction No. 485 of December 81 with Foreign Office officials charged Antarctic and South American affairs and found them greatly concerned with present situation at Deception Island, of which statedly British Embassy Washington has informed Department. Foreign Office now considering recommendations for presentation to Cabinet in late January as to action to take with Argentina if no satisfactory reply received to protest made at Buenos Aires. Department’s views on general Antarctic question will be made known to Cabinet at that time.

[Page 1062]

From informal conversations, it appears Foreign Office thinking now runs along this line: Argentine intrusion at Deception Island, to which UK has unquestioned legal title, apparently is testing operation which may be followed by similar intrusion at inhabited South Georgia and in long run at Falklands if firm measures are not taken to stop such actions now. UK must also keep in mind effect of such actions on general Latin American attitude towards other British possessions in western hemisphere. Therefore, Foreign Office and Colonial Office will recommend firm attitude to Cabinet. Such recommendations may not be accepted but they will be made.

In view presence eight to ten Argentine naval vessels at Deception, action recommended may include (1) sending British naval vessels which will suggest withdrawal Argentine vessels, (2) sending British naval vessels but saying nothing, allowing their presence speak for themselves, and (3) asking UN to request Argentina to submit question to court. Officials stated it had already been planned to send RN sloop Snipe with Governor of Falklands on inspection trip to Deception (US Navy was about to be notified of intention) but this was hurriedly canceled as Snipe is not representative enough boat. Feeling is if Governor goes, he should have naval vessel or vessels adequate maintain his prestige in presence Argentine vessels.

Official was interested in statement US position would be formulated shortly but felt that continued delay of action by UK would simply operate to strengthen [Argentine?] and weaken British position.

He therefore hoped some definitive US views might be available in London before recommendations were submitted to UK Cabinet-Speaking personally, he thought UN action would appeal to British Cabinet and Parliament but it was not so highly regarded in Foreign Office and Colonial Office. Nevertheless, Foreign Office was coming around to view it was feasible.

We gained impression Foreign Office feels UK cannot delay making its position known to Argentina much longer and that it would like to have some guidance as to US attitude before Cabinet decision is taken. There is, of course, fair possibility Cabinet will desire avoid opening controversy with Argentina at this time in view trade and other relations.

  1. Ante, p. 1053.