The U.S. government will not take sides in the dispute between Britain and Argentina over sovereignty in the Falkland Islands, John Kerry said here Monday at the beginning of his first official overseas journey as secretary of state.

"First of all, I'm not going to comment, nor is the president (Barack Obama), on a referendum that has yet to take place," the secretary said when asked whether the world was bound to respect the Falklanders' opinion as expressed in a vote set for next month.

"Our position on the Falklands has not changed. The United States recognizes de facto UK administration of the islands but takes no position on the question of parties' sovereignty claims thereto," Kerry said after talks in London with British Prime Minister David Cameron and Foreign Secretary William Hague.

"We support cooperation between UK and Argentina on practical matters," Washington's top diplomat added.

The South Atlantic archipelago known to Latin Americans as the Malvinas was the object of a brief 1982 war between Argentina and Britain.

Argentine troops invaded the Falklands on April 2, 1982, at the order of the military junta then in power in Buenos Aires.

Full-fledged fighting officially began on May 1, 1982, with the arrival of a British task force, and ended 45 days later with the surrender of the Argentines.

The conflict claimed nearly 1,000 lives - some 700 Argentines and 255 British soldiers and sailors.

Buenos Aires demands that Britain comply with a 1965 United Nations resolution describing London's control of the Falklands - which dates from 1833 - as colonialism and calling on the parties to resolve the dispute through dialogue.

London has refused to discuss the question of sovereignty and says the Falklanders should decide their own future. EFE