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The Legality of Foreign Military Activities in the Exclusive Economic Zone under UNCLOS

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Abstract

During negotiations for the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), military activities in another state’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) were a point of contention. Currently, the issue remains controversial in state practice. UNCLOS attempts to balance the differing interests of coastal and maritime states, but is silent or ambiguous on the legality of military operations in foreign EEZs. Coastal states seek to assert increasing control over their maritime zones while maritime states prioritize the freedom of navigation. This article examines the competing views on these issues in the context of the 2009 Impeccable incident between China and the United States that occurred in the South China Sea. The issue of military activities in the EEZ will continue to be a complex subject, without clear definitions in the nature and scope of permissible activity. As state practice evolves, the potential for hostilities is high, particularly in semi-enclosed sea areas such as the South China Sea. This article concludes that states should create dialogues and form agreements to help clarify the contours of military activity in the EEZ, focusing on mutual interests, interdependence, and coexistence rather than perceiving the ocean as a zero-sum resource.
e Legality of Foreign Military Activities in the Exclusive
Economic Zone under UNCLOS
Jing Geng
Merkourios 2012 – Volume 28/Issue 74, Article, pp. 22-30.
URN: NBN:NL:UI:10-1-112848
ISSN: 0927-460X
URL: www.merkourios.org
Publisher: Igitur, Utrecht Publishing & Archiving Services
Copyright: this work has been licensed by the Creative Commons Attribution License (3.0)
Keywords
Law of the Sea, UNCLOS, Exclusive Economic Zone, Foreign Military Activities, Freedom of Navigation, Military Uses of
the Ocean, Peacetime Naval Operations, South China Sea
Abstract
During negotiations for the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), military activities in another
states Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) were a point of contention. Currently, the issue remains controversial in state
practice. UNCLOS attempts to balance the diering interests of coastal and maritime states, but is silent or ambiguous on
the legality of military operations in foreign EEZs. Coastal states seek to assert increasing control over their maritime zones
while maritime states prioritize the freedom of navigation. is article examines the competing views on these issues in the
context of the 2009 Impeccable incident between China and the United States that occurred in the South China Sea. e
issue of military activities in the EEZ will continue to be a complex subject, without clear denitions in the nature and scope
of permissible activity. As state practice evolves, the potential for hostilities is high, particularly in semi-enclosed sea areas
such as the South China Sea. is article concludes that states should create dialogues and form agreements to help clarify
the contours of military activity in the EEZ, focusing on mutual interests, interdependence, and coexistence rather than
perceiving the ocean as a zero-sum resource.
Author Aliations
Utrecht University School of Law, LL.M. Candidate Public International Law (2012); Washington University School of Law,
J.D. (2011); Washington University College of Arts & Sciences, B.A. Psychology (2008). e author would like to thank the
Merkourios Editorial Board and Dr. Alex Oude Elferink for his helpful comments on an earlier draft of this article.
Article
Merkourios - International and European Security Law - Vol. 28/74
22
Case Note
Article
I. Introduction
A. e 2009 Impeccable Incident
In March 2009 in the South China Sea, ve Chinese vessels surrounded the unarmed USNS Impeccable, a United States (‘US’)
Navy ocean surveillance vessel, and ordered it to leave the area.
1
e Impeccable had been conducting routine seabed mapping
and tracking submarines about seventy-ve nautical miles (nm) south of Chinas Hainan Island.
2
Two of the Chinese vessels
moved within eight meters of the US ship, forcing it to take collision-avoidance measures.
3
e Impeccable withdrew from
the area but returned the following day accompanied by a US guided missile destroyer for its protection.
4
is incident raised
tensions in Sino-American relations as both nations accused the other of violating international law.
5
e Pentagon protested
the aggressive ‘harassment’ of the Chinese vessels while Beijing accused the US ship of illegally operating in Chinas Exclusive
Economic Zone (EEZ).
6
is issue is unlikely to be resolved because the two sides fundamentally disagree on what military
activities are permissible in another states EEZ.
7
e Impeccable confrontation is a good example of the uncertainty and controversy regarding the legality of military operations
in the EEZ. Did the United States have the right to conduct activities in Chinas claimed EEZ? Was China out of line to
require prior notication and permission? What does the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS or
the Convention) permit and prohibit in terms of military activities in the EEZ? Unfortunately, the issue of the military uses
of the oceans in peacetime raises many contentious questions and very few answers.
B. e Legal Question
is article examines the legal question of whether States may conduct military activities in another States EEZ under
UNCLOS. When, if ever, are such operations permissible? e analysis is limited to the military uses of the oceans in
peacetime.
8
is article will consider the text of UNCLOS, as well as the varying state practice regarding the issue. Finally,
the article addresses the real-world implications of these questions in the context of the continuing tensions in the South
China Sea.
II. e Law
A. UNCLOS – A Constitution for the Seas
On December 10, 1982, in Montego Bay, Jamaica, UNCLOS was presented for signature. Over 115 countries signed
that same day.
9
UNCLOS came into force on November 16, 1994, and has been broadly accepted by the international
community.
10
To date, 161 States and the European Union have joined the convention.
11
UNCLOS is a comprehensive treaty that creates a legal regime governing the peaceful use of the ocean and its resources.
12
UNCLOS provides guidance on various maritime matters such as pollution, environmental protection, and resources
rights.
13
In many ways, UNCLOS has provided clarity and reliability in the maritime context,
14
however, it is either silent
1 R Pedrozo, ‘Close Encounters at Sea: e USNS Impeccable Incident’ (2009) 62 Naval War Col Rev 101.
2 C Rahman and M Tsamenyi, ‘A Strategic Perspective on Security and Naval Issues in the South China Sea’ (2010) 41 Ocean Dev and Int’l L 315, 326.
3 Rahman and Tsamenyi (n 2).
4 Pedrozo (n 1) 101.
5 V England, ‘Whos right in South China Sea spat?’ BBC News (London, 13 March 2009) <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacic/7941425.stm> accessed 30
January 2012.
6 ibid.
7 ibid.
8 For a discussion on naval warfare, see generally L Doswald-Beck (ed), San Remo Manual on International Law Applicable to Armed Conicts at Sea (Cambridge
University Press 1995). For example, hostile forces may conduct activities in all the waters of belligerent states, including internal waters, the continental shelf,
and the high seas.
9 JA Du, ‘e United States and the Law of the Sea Convention: Sliding Back from Accession and Ratication’ (2005) 11 Ocean and Coastal LJ 1, 6.
10 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea – Current Status <http://www.un.org/Depts/los/convention_agreements/convention_agreements.htm>
accessed 30 January 2012.
11 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea – Current Status (n 10).
12 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, 10 December 1982, 1833 UNTS 397 Overview and full text <http://www.un.org/depts/los/convention_
agreements/convention_overview_convention.htm> accessed 30 January 2012.
13 DG Stephens, ‘e Impact of the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention on the Conduct of Peacetime Naval/Military Operations’ (1998) 29 Cal W Int’l LJ 283.
14 ibid.
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Article
or ambiguous about issues concerning military operations and the use of force in the oceans.
15
e Convention does not
explicitly regulate military activities in the EEZ or the high seas, though Article 88 requires that ‘the high seas shall be
reserved for peaceful purposes.’
16
B. Development of the EEZ
In some ways, the law of the sea has always had a tension between states supporting the doctrine of an open sea (mare
liberum) and states that seek control over a more closed sea (mare clausum).
17
is struggle has been continuous throughout
the evolution of the law of the sea and many UNCLOS provisions reect this balance between coastal state and maritime
state interests.
18
UNCLOS provides for dierent maritime zones with varying substantive regimes. For instance, the coastal state has sovereignty
over the territorial sea,
19
which extends up to 12 nm from the baseline.
20
Foreign warships must follow the conditions of
Article 19 for ‘innocent passage’ if they are to navigate through the territorial seas of a coastal state.
21
Article 25 permits the
coastal state to protect itself and ‘take the necessary steps in its territorial sea to prevent passage which is not innocent.’
22
On
the other hand, all states equally enjoy the freedom of navigation and overight in the high seas,
23
an area beyond national
jurisdiction.
24
Situated between these two substantive regimes is the EEZ, which is arguably the most complicated of the
maritime zones in terms of regulation and enforcement.
25
e concept of an EEZ developed early in the course of negotiations during the third United Nations Conference on the
Law of the Sea (UNCLOS III).
26
Asian and African states adopted the 1972 Addis Ababa Declaration recognizing the right
of a coastal state to establish an EEZ up to 200 nm in which ‘the coastal state would exercise permanent sovereignty over
all resources without unduly hampering other legitimate uses of the sea, including freedom of navigation, of overight
and laying cables and pipelines.’
27
During UNCLOS III, there was considerable debate regarding the EEZ’s legal status.
28
Maritime powers maintained that the EEZ should have the traditional freedoms of the high seas,
29
while coastal states argued
for more rights and control over the zone.
30
e result is an EEZ that is a compromise between the varying positions.
31
UNCLOS Article 56 establishes the substantive regime of the EEZ. is maritime zone begins where the territorial sea
ends and is to extend no more than 200 nm from the baseline.
32
e coastal state has the sovereign rights for the economic
exploitation and exploration of all resources in the EEZ, including, for instance, energy production.
33
e coastal state also
has jurisdiction over articial islands and installations, marine scientic research, and the protection and preservation of the
marine environment.
34
In its regulation of the EEZ, the coastal state is obliged to give ‘due regard’ to the rights and duties
of other states and must act in a ‘manner compatible’ with the Convention.
35
It is important to note that ‘sovereign rights
15 ibid.
16 M Lehto, ‘Restrictions on Military Activities in the Baltic Sea – A Basis for a Regional Regime?’ (1991) 2 Finnish YB Int’l L 38, 45; see also art 88 United Nations
Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) 10 December 1982, 1833 UNTS 397.
17 CE Pirtle, ‘Military Uses of Ocean Space and the Law of the Sea in the New Millennium’ (2000) 31 Ocean Dev and Int’l L 7, 11.
18 ibid.
19 Subject to the right of innocent passage and transit passage of foreign vessels. See UNCLOS, Arts 17 and 38 respectively.
20 UNCLOS, Art 3.
21 UNCLOS, Art 19.
22 UNCLOS, Art 25.
23 UNCLOS, Art 87.
24 UNCLOS, Art 89.
25 See eg, DR Rothwell and T Stephens, e International Law of the Sea (Hart Publishing, Portland 2010) 428.
26 S Mahmoudi, ‘Foreign Military Activities in the Swedish Economic Zone’ (1996) 11 Int’l J Marine and Coastal L 365, 366.
27 ibid 367.
28 ibid 366.
‘Since the advent of the EEZ in 1971 there has been contrast in the views of dierent states about the legal status of the zone, the balance of rights and duties,
and particularly about the exercise of the so-called residual rights i.e. the rights which are not expressly attributed in the convention either to the coastal state or
the ag state. It is not surprising, therefore, that the relevant provisions in the 1982 LOS Convention are not interpreted uniformly.’
29 GV Galdoresi and AG Kaufman, ‘Military Activities in the Exclusive Economic Zone: Preventing Uncertainty and Defusing Conict’ (2001) 32 Cal W Int’l LJ
253, 254, ‘It is not a part of the high seas, although high-seas-like freedom exists there with respect to navigation. EEZ claims extract approximately 30 to 36
per cent of the world’s oceans from waters traditionally considered high seas.’
30 Commander JC Meyer, USN, ‘e Impact of the Exclusive Economic Zone on Naval Operations’ (1992) 40 Navak L Rev 241.
31 ibid 241.
32 UNCLOS, Art 57.
33 UNCLOS, Art 56.
34 UNCLOS, Art 56.
35 UNCLOS, Art 56.
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does not mean sovereignty.
36
Other states enjoy freedoms in the EEZ similar to those of the high seas, such as navigation
and overight.
37
Article 58 outlines the rights and duties of other states in the EEZ and mandates a similar obligation upon
maritime states to have ‘due regard’ to the rights and duties of the coastal state.
38
us, articles 56 and 58 strike a balance
between the interests of the coastal states, and the right to the freedom of navigation of all other states. e cross-reference
to Articles 88 to 115 in Article 58 applies certain high seas provisions to the EEZ, so long as they are compatible with
this regime.
39
erefore, Article 58(2) envisions that other states may need to engage in certain non-economic, high-seas
activities in the EEZ, such as hot pursuit, counter-piracy eorts, assistance and rescue missions, and the suppression of drug
tracking.
40
C. Varying State Interpretations
Since the conclusion of UNCLOS in 1982, the general concept of an EEZ and the right for a coastal state to exercise sovereign
rights over economic activity and resources have become customary international law.
41
However, as a relatively new concept
in international law, the specic scope of rights and responsibilities in the EEZ is dynamic and ever-evolving.
42
UNCLOS
does not clarify the specic issue of military activities in the EEZ and a major source of contention continues to be whether
maritime states may unilaterally conduct certain military operations in the EEZ of the coastal state without permission.
43
Some maritime powers support unfettered military activity in the EEZ by emphasizing the freedom of navigation.
44
Conversely, some coastal states object to military activity in their EEZ by expressing concern for their national security and
their resource sovereignty.
45
is divergence in perspective regarding the legality of foreign military activities in the EEZ is
partly due to varying interpretations of Article 58, which permits maritime states to engage in ‘other internationally lawful
uses of the sea related to these freedoms, such as those associated with the operation of ships, aircraft and submarine cables
and pipelines, and compatible with the other provisions of this Convention.’
46
us, nations such as the United States
perceive this provision to permit naval operations in the EEZ as an activity ‘associated with the operation of ships’ and more
generally, as protected within the scope of the freedom of navigation.
47
Since UNCLOS is meant to be a comprehensive ‘package deal’, states may not make reservations or exceptions to the
Convention.
48
Otherwise, parties to the treaty could eectively opt out of their convention obligations.
49
Under Article 310,
States retain the right to make declarations, though such statements are illegitimate if they ‘purport to exclude or to modify
the legal eect of the provisions of this Convention in their application to that State.
50
Some states have exercised their
Article 310 right by making declarations on the issue of military activities in the EEZ.
51
For instance, Brazil, Bangladesh,
Cape Verde, Malaysia, India, and Pakistan have all expressed concern over the ability of foreign military vessels to engage
in certain activities within the EEZ.
52
In their declarations, these states require consent before a foreign ship may conduct
military activities.
53
To illustrate, Brazil declared in 1988:
36 Pirtle (n 17) 30.
37 Lehto (n 16) 48.
38 UNCLOS, Art 58.
39 UNCLOS, Art 58(2).
40 JM Van Dyke, ‘Military ships and planes operating in the exclusive economic zone of another country’ (2004) 28 Marine Policy 29, 36.
41 Galdoresi and Kaufman (n 29) 285.
42 ibid 254.
43 Rothwell and Stephens (n 25) 284.
44 See eg, the United States Navy’s Freedom of Navigation Program as described in WJ Aceves, ‘e Freedom of Navigation Program: A Study of the Relationship
Between Law and Politics’ (1995) 19 Hastings Int’l & Comp L Rev 259.
45 M Valencia, ‘Intelligence Gathering, the South China Sea, and the Law of the Sea’ (Nautilius Institute, 30 August 2011) <http://www.nautilus.org/publications/
essays/napsnet/forum/Valencia_SCS> accessed 30 January 2012. See also MJ Valencia and Y Amae, ‘Regime Building in the East China Sea’ (2003) 34 Ocean
Dev and Int’l L 189.
46 UNCLOS, Art 58(1).
47 Y Song, ‘e PRC’s Peacetime Military Activities in Taiwans EEZ: A Question of Legality’ (2001) 16 Int’l J Marine and Coastal L 625, 635, ‘Specically, the
U.S. interprets UNCLOS Art 58(1) to permit “military activities such as task force maneuvering, ight operations, military exercises, naval survey, information
gathering, and weapons testing and ring.”’ ibid 636.
48 UNCLOS, Art 309.
49 Van Dyke (n 40) 30.
50 UNCLOS, Art 310.
51 UNCLOS, Art 310 for ‘Declarations and statements’, ‘Article 309 does not preclude a State, when signing, ratifying or acceding to this Convention, from
making declarations or statements, however phrased or named, with a view, inter alia, to the harmonization of its laws and regulations with the provisions of this
Convention, provided that such declarations or statements do not purport to exclude or to modify the legal eect of the provisions of this Convention in their
application to that State.
52 See generally United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea: Declarations and Statements <http://www.un.org/depts/los/convention_agreements/
convention_declarations.htm> accessed 30 January 2012.
53 UNCLOS Declarations and Statements (n 52).
Article
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e Brazilian Government understands that the provisions of the Convention do not authorize
other States to carry out military exercises or manoeuvres, in particular those involving the use of
weapons or explosives, in the exclusive economic zone without the consent of the coastal State.
54
States such as Italy, Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom have protested these interpretations as unduly
restrictive on navigational freedoms and as inconsistent with Article 310 and UNCLOS.
55
For example, the Netherlands
declared in 1996:
e Convention does not authorize the coastal State to prohibit military exercises in its exclusive economic
zone. e rights of the coastal State in its exclusive economic zone are listed in article 56 of the Convention,
and no such authority is given to the coastal State. In the exclusive economic zone all States enjoy the
freedoms of navigation and overight, subject to the relevant provisions of the Convention.
56
ese declarations demonstrate the sharp disagreement and variance in interpretation regarding the legality of conducting
military activities in the EEZ of another country.
57
Despite the ambiguity in the language of UNCLOS and the divergence in interpretation of the text, there is some evidence
that the Convention did not intend to broadly exclude peacetime military operations in the EEZ.
58
For instance, the 1949
International Court of Justice (ICJ) Corfu Channel decision refers to the freedom of navigation of warships in peacetime as
a ‘general and well-recognized principle.’
59
e ICJ’s ndings in the Corfu Channel case were inuential in the development
of the law of the sea in the UNCLOS conferences.
60
is nding is crucial since the freedom of navigation is the foundation
for military operations at sea.
61
However, the Court’s decision did not specify the scope of the rights included in the freedom
of navigation of warships. During UNCLOS III, the President of the Conference, Tommy T.B. Koh, commented on the
question of military activities in the EEZ by stating in 1984:
e solution in the Convention text is very complicated. Nowhere is it clearly stated whether a third state
may or may not conduct military activities in the exclusive economic zone of a coastal state. But, it was
the general understanding that the text we negotiated and agreed upon would permit such activities to be
conducted. I therefore would disagree with the statement made in Montego Bay by Brazil, in December
1982, that a third state may not conduct military activities in Brazil’s exclusive economic zone[…].
62
Unfortunately, the issue of military activities in the EEZ remains ambiguous and unsettled.
D. ‘For Peaceful Purposes
UNCLOS repeatedly emphasizes that various maritime activities should be conducted ‘for peaceful purposes.’
63
Both the
Preamble and Article 301, for instance, reinforce the peaceful uses of the oceans.
64
Article 301 for ‘Peaceful uses of the seas’
echoes Article 2(4) of the United Nations Charter by stating:
54 Brazil (1988), UNCLOS Declarations and Statements (n 52).
55 UNCLOS Declarations and Statements (n 52).
56 e Netherlands (1996), UNCLOS Declarations and Statements (n 52).
57 Van Dyke (n 40) 29.
58 Van Dyke (n 40) 31.
59 Case concerning Corfu Channel (United Kingdom v Albania) [1949] ICJ Rep 4.
60 Rothwell and Stephens (n 25) 267-68: ‘e ICJ’s nding that the freedom of navigation was enjoyed by warships in peacetime was subsequently reected in
deliberations at UNCLOS I and III and in both the Geneva Conventions and the LOSC […]. at it was considered a general principle further elevates its
signicance and needs to be taken into account when interpreting the international law of the sea concerning navigation by warships.’
61 ibid 267.
62 Van Dyke (n 40) 31.
63 Rothwell and Stephens (n 25) 266: ‘is is reected not only in Article 301, but is restated in numerous provisions throughout the convention including that
the high seas are reserved for peaceful purposes (LOSC, Art 88), that the use of the Area is exclusively for peaceful purposes (LOSC, Art 141), and that marine
scientic research is to be carried out exclusively for peaceful purposes (LOSC, Art 240). Consistent with these articles and the Preamble, the convention also
emphasizes that passage in the territorial sea which is ‘prejudicial to the peace’ is inconsistent with the LOSC and coastal states may respond accordingly (LOSC,
Art 19).’
64 UNCLOS (n 16) Preamble: ‘Recognizing the desirability of establishing through this Convention, with due regard for the sovereignty of all States, a legal order
for the seas and oceans which will facilitate international communication, and will promote the peaceful uses of the seas and oceans, the equitable and ecient
utilization of their resources, the conservation of their living resources, and the study, protection and preservationofthemarineenvironment.
Article
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In exercising their rights and performing their duties under this Convention, States Parties shall refrain from
any threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State, or in any other
manner inconsistent with the principles of international law embodied in the Charter of the United Nations.
65
Although some states have interpreted Article 301 to prohibit foreign military activities in the EEZ,
66
it does not follow that
military activities are inherently non-peaceful. While Article 88, for example, reserves the high seas for peaceful purposes,
67
military maneuvers and exercises have traditionally been considered compatible with the freedom of the high seas.
68
E. ‘Due Regard’ for Rights and Duties
In tandem, Articles 56 and 58 mandate that coastal and maritime states shall mutually respect each other’s rights and duties
in the EEZ.
69
ese articles are meant to balance the interests of various states in the EEZ. However, ‘due regard’ is not
dened in the Convention and is open to interpretation.
70
For instance, proponents of the legality of military activities in
the EEZ argue that such actions do not interfere with the economic activity of a nation and thus cannot be regulated by the
coastal state.
71
What regard is due will inevitably depend on the circumstances, for instance, a military vessel conducting
weapons tests may need to take measures to ensure the safety of maritime navigation in the vicinity.
72
In cases where the
extent of a states legal rights in the EEZ is uncertain, Article 59 provides that the conict in interests ‘should be resolved
on the basis of equity and in the light of all the relevant circumstances, taking into account the respective importance of the
interests involved to the parties as well as to the international community as a whole.
73
us, circumstances matter and the
implication is that there are many variables in determining whether certain military activities are permissible in the EEZ of
a state, such as the scope and nature of the activity, the proximity of the vessel to the coastal state, and the impact on the
marine environment.
III. In Practice
A. e Impeccable Incident Revisited
Now that we have reviewed the relevant law, it is time to return to the Impeccable incident and examine the law in practice.
China has ratied UNCLOS but the US has only signed it.
74
As a non-party to the Convention, the US argues that the
provisions are considered customary international law.
75
After the confrontation between the US navy ship and the ve
Chinese vessels, the Pentagon protested by stating:
We believe rmly that what that naval ship was doing in those international waters is not only fully consistent
with international law, it is common practice. And we hope that the Chinese would behave in a similar way,
that is, according to international law.
76
A spokesman from the Chinese Foreign Ministry responded:
65 UNCLOS (n 16) Art 301. See also Art 2(4) United Nations, Charter of the United Nations (24 October 1945)1 UNTS XVI.
66 UNCLOS Declaration and Statements (n 52).
67 UNCLOS (n 16) art 88.
68 Valencia (n 45). See also Francesco Francioni, ‘Peacetime Use of Force, Military Activities, and the New Law of the Sea’ (1985) 18 Cornell Int’l LJ 203, 222: ‘e
term ‘peaceful purposes’ did not, of course, preclude military activities generally. e United States had consistently held that the conduct of military activities
for peaceful purposes was in full accord with the Charter of the United Nations and with the principles of international law. Any specic limitation on military
activities would require the negotiation of a detailed arms control agreement.’
69 UNCLOS (n 17) Arts 56 and 58.
70 Galdoresi and Kaufman, (n 29) 273: ‘As agreed upon, however, with residual rights unassigned and the issue left in the balance, and with each side required to
exercise its rights in the EEZ with due regard for the rights of the other, the regime appeared ambiguous. ese provisions left any undened rights unassigned,
and gave no hint as to how to weigh the balance in settling any dispute over such assignment. Moreover, these provisions, while requiring ‘due regard,’ did not
dene just what regard is due, leaving that dicult and dangerous question on the table, with the answer very much dependent upon the eye of the beholder.’
71 Meyer (n 30) 246: ‘[A]rticle 58’s stipulation that states “shall comply with the laws and regulations adopted by the coastal State” in its EEZ, relates to activities
for which the coastal state exercises sovereign rights and jurisdiction under the provisions of part V of the 1982 Convention relative to the EEZ. ose activities
are economic in nature and are not applicable to the conduct of warships in the coastal states EEZ.’
72 Rothwell and Stephens (n 25) 280.
73 UNCLOS (n 16) Art 59.
74 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea – Current Status (n 10).
75 Valencia (n 45).
76 JR Crook (ed), ‘United States Protests Chinese Interference with US Naval Vessel, Vows Continued Operations’ in Contemporary Practice of the United States
Relating to International Law (2009) 103 Am J Int’l L 325, 351. See also US Department of Defense, ‘DoD News Brieng with Geo Morrell from the Pentagon
(11 March 2009) <http://www.defense.gov/Transcripts/Transcript.aspx?TranscriptID=4369> accessed 31 January 2012.
Article
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[T]he USNS Impeccable conducted activities in Chinas special economic zone in the South China Sea
without Chinas permission […]. We demand that the United States put an immediate stop to related
activities and take eective measures to prevent similar acts from happening.
77
Ocials from both sides rejected each others legal arguments.
78
China argues that the military activities of the Impeccable are
an ‘abuse of rights’ under Article 300
79
and that they constituted a non-peaceful threat of the use of force prohibited under
Article 301.
80
e ‘abuse of rights’ argument is meant to protest the United States’ allegedly arbitrary use of Chinas EEZ.
81
On the other hand, the United States continues to assert a ‘complete right to unilateral, unlimited naval operations in foreign
EEZs.’
82
What is legally permissible in the EEZ is most likely somewhere between these extremes.
It is dicult to comment on the legality of the Impeccable in Chinas claimed EEZ without knowing the exact circumstances
of what the vessel was doing there. According to the US Navys Military Sealift Command website, the Impeccable is an ocean
surveillance ship that ‘directly support[s] the Navy by using both passive and active low frequency sonar arrays to detect
and track undersea threats.’
83
Much to Chinas irritation, the United States will most likely continue to assert the freedom
of navigation and point to military activities in the EEZ as legitimate, non-resource related, and posing no direct threat to
the coastal state.
84
Meanwhile, China relies on Article 301 and demands that the United States respect its legal interests and
security concerns.
85
Ultimately it appears that the two nations remain markedly divergent in their interpretation of whether
peacetime military activities such as what the Impeccable was engaged in are a threat to the territorial integrity or political
independence of the coastal state.
B. e Diculty in Discerning State Practice
In light of the ambiguity of treaty obligations under UNCLOS regarding military operations in the EEZ, it is useful to consult
customary international law. However, state practice regarding such activity is as diverse as states themselves.
86
Although all
states possess sovereign equality under the UN Charter, states have diering, and at times conicting, interests and various
factors inuence their perspective regarding military operations in the EEZ. For instance, a edgling coastal state without
a strong navy may not prioritize the freedom of navigation as much as a state with an advanced military would. In fact,
e struggle to dene the EEZ is a political tug-of-war involving a large number of states with dissimilar
history, unequal resources, and dierent maritime interests. is diversity engenders an acute sensitivity
about relative rights and privileges, and negotiations tend to end up being viewed through the lens of a
zero-sum perspective.
87
According to some commentators, there is no reason why economic and military activities cannot coexist in a maritime
zone.
88
Nevertheless, as military technology continues to advance,
89
less developed states continue to make greater claims
77 Crook (n 76). See also ‘China Says US Naval Ship Breaks Int’l, Chinese Law’ Xinhua News Agency (10 March 2009) at <http://news.xinhuanet.com/
english/2009-03/10/content_10983647.htm> accessed 31 January 2012.
78 Crook (n 76).
79 UNCLOS (n 16) Art 300.
80 Valencia (n 45). See also UNCLOS (n 16) Art 301.
81 Valencia (n 45): ‘China argues that the activities of the EP-3 and the Impeccable are an “abuse of rights” prohibited by UNCLOS Article 300, ie the unnecessary
or arbitrary exercise of rights, or interference with the exercise of rights by another state. is in turn goes back to exactly what these platforms were doing and
to the issue of “due regard to the rights and duties” of each other. Although such due regard in the EEZ is required by the Convention, it is undened.’
82 Galdoresi and Kaufman (n 29) 289.
83 United States Navy Military Sealift Command Website <http://www.msc.navy.mil/pm2/> accessed 30 January 2012.
84 Rothwell and Stephens (n 25) 276. See also Rahman and Tsamenyi (n 2) 328; R Pedrozo, ‘Preserving Navigational Rights and Freedoms: e Right to Conduct
Military Activities in Chinas Exclusive Economic Zone’ (2010) 9 Chinese J Int’l L 9, 29; R Pedrozo, ‘Responding to Ms. Zhangs Talking Points on the EEZ’
(2011) 10 Chinese J Int’l L 207, 213.
85 Rahman and Tsamenyi (n 2) 326.
86 Rothwell and Stephens (n 25) 280: ‘In light of this diversity in state practice, Churchill observed in 2005 that “there is no agreed interpretation of the
Convention nor a rule of customary international law” on whether there is an unfettered right to conduct these military operations in the EEZ.’
87 Commander SA Rose, USN, ‘Naval Activity in the EEZ – Troubled Waters Ahead?’ (1990) 39 Naval L Rev 67, 78.
88 Rose (n 87) 78.
89 See eg, Valencia (n 45): ‘Drones are generally considered relatively cheap weapons and highly eective reconnaissance tools.In a world of increasing use of spy
planes including UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) such as the ever improving Global Hawk, and spy ships including unmanned surface vessels (USVs) and now
unmanned underwater vessels UUVs, their missions are rapidly outstripping relevant laws and regulations. For example remote sensing from satellites and high-
ying surveillance aircraft have for decades undertaken maritime scientic research and surveys in others EEZs without the permission – or even the advance
knowledge - required by the 1982 UNCLOS.’
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in the EEZ.
90
As state practice regarding military operations in the EEZ continues to evolve in a dynamic system, national
practice is inconsistent and remains in dispute.
91
In many ways, the legal status of the EEZ will continue to develop through
the interaction of competing interests and ‘claim and counterclaim.’
92
C. e Way Forward
With such limited guidance from the text of UNCLOS and from state practice, what is the way forward for determining the
scope of permissible military activity in the EEZ? Furthermore, what can be done to prevent hostilities and other incidents
at sea? Seeking clarity from tribunals will be dicult since Article 298 has an opt-out clause where many states may exclude
disputes regarding military activities from compulsory dispute resolution.
93
In fact, many states have taken advantage of this
option.
94
It will be dicult to look for an authoritative legal interpretation regarding military activities in the EEZ if such a
dispute is not presented before the ICJ or the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea.
95
us, the question of whether
naval operations are permissible within the EEZ of a coastal state remains unclear.
Aside from dispute settlement, states could gain clarity regarding military activity in the EEZ from bilateral or regional
arrangements. Such dialogue could promote clarity and potentially help preempt conict.
96
For instance, the former Soviet
Union and the United States adopted a ‘Joint Statement’ providing for uniform interpretation of the right of innocent passage
in the territorial sea.
97
In the East China Sea, China and Japan have developed bilateral regimes for ‘conict avoidance
regarding sheries and marine scientic research.
98
ese agreements may not resolve every issue, but they do certainly oer
more clarity and could provide mechanisms to deal with situations where the law is uncertain. Another option would be
to form regional agreements. In the 1990s, Indonesia used Association of Southeast Asian Nations as a venue for hosting
informal talks aimed at conict resolution and management in the South China Sea.
99
us, individual states as well as
regional organizations may have a role in clarifying the legality of military operations in the EEZ. ere is the risk of regional
diversication in state practice and interpretation; nevertheless, such arrangements could contribute to increased certainty
regarding military uses of the oceans. ese multi-state dialogues are particularly crucial at the moment as tensions continue
to escalate in the South China Sea region.
100
IV. Conclusion
Military activities in the EEZ were a point of contention during UNCLOS III negotiations, and remain controversial in state
practice. UNCLOS attempts to balance the diering interests of coastal and maritime states, but is silent or ambiguous on
the legality of military operations in foreign EEZs. Coastal states seek to assert increasing control over their maritime zones
while maritime states prioritize the freedom of navigation. Military activity that is permissible will depend on many variables
and the circumstances. Maritime states cannot engage in naval activities without constraint, and coastal states should not
unilaterally revoke certain high-seas freedoms. Both the coastal state and the maritime state should have mutual respect and
due regard’ for one another.
101
90 Galdoresi and Kaufman (n 29) 288: ‘It is often the less developed countries that make the strongest claims, seeking to use the law to achieve the exclusion
and control they cannot yet ensure with weapons and technology. See also Meyer (n 30) 250: ‘e number of extended claims of jurisdiction is growing as
developing countries claim greater rights to the exploitation of the ocean and demand a larger say in ocean aairs. e US historical approach to navigation and
overight has little meaning to this community of nations whose independence from colonial rule has been gained only within the past twenty years. From their
perspective, repeated incursions into their waters by US naval forces, demonstrating freedom of navigation rights, could be seen as superpower “bullying.”’
91 Galdoresi and Kaufman (n 29) 285-86: ‘National practice and legislation is varied and inconsistent in the implementation of the detailed EEZ mechanisms, and
so does not provide a rule for naval operations […]. State declaratory practice reects a continuing eort by coastal States to retain control of coastal waters by
legal exclusion-whether by claims of sovereignty, or extensive regulatory jurisdiction, or some combination amounting to quasi-sovereignty.
92 Aceves (n 44) 262.
93 UNCLOS (n 16) Art 298.
94 UNCLOS Declarations and Statements (n 52).
95 Song (n 47) 637.
96 Galdoresi and Kaufman (n 29) 296.
97 Galdoresi and Kaufman (n 29) 295.
98 Valencia and Amae (n 45).
99 JP Burgess, ‘e Politics of the South China Sea: Territoriality and International Law’ (2003) 34 Security Dialogue 7, 10 <http://community.middlebury.
edu/~scs/docs/Burgess,%20Politics%20of%20the%20South%20China%20Sea-Territoriality%20and%20.pdf> accessed 30 January 2012.
100 See eg, O Saleem, ‘e Spratly Islands Dispute: China Denes the New Millenium’ (1999) 15 Am U Int’l L Rev 527.
101 Galdoresi and Kaufman (n 29) 301: ‘A suciently dense network of such arrangements and understandings, followed by consistent practice, will ensure the
vitality of customary norms. In the end, it is our view that this is an approach that will ensure the best balance among an ongoing network of lawful naval and
military activities, stable international law, freedom of navigation for ocean-going commerce, and is an approach that will protect interests common to all in an
internationally interdependent world.’
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e issue of military activities in the EEZ will continue to be a complex subject, without clear denitions in the nature and
scope of permissible activity. As state practice evolves, the potential for hostilities is high, particularly in semi-enclosed sea
areas such as the South China Sea. States should create dialogues and form agreements to help clarify the contours of military
activity in the EEZ. ey should focus on mutual interests, interdependence, and coexistence rather than perceiving the
ocean as a zero-sum resource.
102
102 Galdoresi and Kaufman (n 29) 300: ‘A stable system of international law is good for trade, and a strong Navy, able to evenhandedly defend legal entitlements by
its presence at sea, is good for a stable system of international law. e cooperative approach is the preferable approach.
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30
... India, Malaysia, Brazil and Iran) interpret UNCLOS to prohibit naval activities and manoeuvres in the EEZ without their prior permission, while some others (e.g. Thailand, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States) perceive this provision as one permitting naval operations in the EEZ as an activity 'associated with the operation of ships' and more generally as protected within the scope of the freedom of navigation (Galdorisi, Kaufman, 2001;Geng, 2012). In general terms, it is possible to affirm that most nations agree with the position advocated by the maritime states that "military operations, exercises and activities have always been regarded as internationally lawful uses of the sea. ...
... In this context, some states have exercised their right to make declarations on military activities under article 310, which however stresses that "such declarations or statements do not purport to exclude or to modify the legal effect of the provisions of this Convention in their application to the State" (United Nations, 1982;Geng, 2012). For instance, Brazil, Bangladesh, Cape Verde, Malaysia, India, and Pakistan have clearly expressed in their statements that they require consent before a foreign ship may conduct military activities in their EEZ. ...
... For instance, Brazil, Bangladesh, Cape Verde, Malaysia, India, and Pakistan have clearly expressed in their statements that they require consent before a foreign ship may conduct military activities in their EEZ. By contrast, states like Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom have protested against this interpretation stating that they are unduly restrictive on navigational freedoms that are the foundation for military activities at sea and as inconsistent with article 310 and UNCLOS (Geng, 2012). Nevertheless, although the language of UNCLOS is ambiguous, some evidence that the Convention did not intend to broadly exclude peacetime military operations in the EEZ does exist. ...
... www.ijsrp.org military in its EEZ (Geng 2012). Both activities will be undermining and threatening its security. ...
... Military activities in the EEZ are a hot topic on the international agenda of states because they are becoming increasingly frequent for a number of reasons such as the rise in the size and quality of the navies of many nations, the technological advances that allow navies to exploit oceanic areas. Geng (2012) mentioned that other countries such as Thailand, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States perceive this provision as one permitting naval operations in the EEZ as an activity 'associated with the operation of ships' and more generally as protected within the scope of the freedom of navigation. Malaysia has pointed out that military activities in Malaysia EEZ prohibited without their permission. ...
... Over 115 countries signed that same day UNCLOS came into force on November 16, 1994, and has been broadly accepted by the international community. To date, 161 states and the European Union have joined the convention (Geng 2012). It established EEZ and its legal regime among other zones of coastal states and declared the rights, jurisdiction, and duties of the coastal and other state in the zone. ...
... From this context, some states, on one side, support military activities in EEZ, on the other side coastal states are concerned for their national security for this provision. Thus, the issue of military activities in the EEZ remains ambiguous and unsettled (Geng 2012). ...
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... To this end, the USA's position is that UNCLOS establishes and gives a right to the coastal states to regulate economic activities, e.g. oil exploration and fishing, as part of their EEZs but not to constrain foreign military operations within EEZs (Marex, 2014). Whereas, China's and some other state's stances is that UNCLOS interprets the rights including economic activities as well as foreign military operations in their EEZs at the same time (Geng, 2012). ...
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p align="center"> Abstract The research argue that in the absence of an internationally negotiated provisions that explicitly regulate foreign peacetime military activities in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of another States, States should consider the incident case per case as well as may employed the guideline prepared by highly reputed international legal scholars. This is essential to avoid unnecessary conflict between the Coastal State and the State conducting military activities in the EEZ. The aforementioned conclusion is reached by first analysing the definition of the peacetime military activities of the State. The research would also examine the negotiation process and its negotiated provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) 1982 resulted from the negotiation, regulating EEZ. Subsequently, the research would examining of the practice of the States interpreting the UNCLOS 1982’s EEZ provisions, including providing the options as an interim solutions for the void in the legal instruments in the matter. </p
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Public calls for a more aggressive regional response to China’s pressing of its territorial claims in the South China Sea are typically couched in terms of the threat posed to freedom of navigation. Yet this invites an obvious question: If freedom of navigation, a vital interest for nearly every country in the region, is at risk, why has the regional response to China’s actions to date been so limited? This article argues that one compelling explanation lies in the economics of freedom of navigation in East Asia. Put simply, the risks of freedom of navigation being impeded are frequently overstated, and a more sober assessment of these risks can reduce the incentive that countries have to take more dramatic action.
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China's views on coastal State authority in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) are not supported by State practice, the negotiating history of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), or a plain reading of Part V of the Convention. All nations may legitimately engage in military activities in foreign EEZs without prior notice to, or consent of, the coastal State concerned. Efforts were made during the negotiations of UNCLOS to broaden coastal State rights and jurisdiction in the EEZ to include security interests. However, the Conference rejected these efforts and the final text of the Convention (Article 58) ultimately preserved high seas freedoms of navigation and overflight and other internationally lawful uses of the seas related to those freedoms, to include military activities, in the EEZ.
See also Rahman and Tsamenyi (n 2) 328; R PedrozoPreserving Navigational Rights and Freedoms: The Right to Conduct Military Activities in China's Exclusive Economic Zone' (2010) 9 Chinese J Int'l L 9, 29; R Pedrozo, 'Responding to Ms. Zhang's Talking Points on the EEZ
  • Stephens Rothwell
Rothwell and Stephens (n 25) 276. See also Rahman and Tsamenyi (n 2) 328; R Pedrozo, 'Preserving Navigational Rights and Freedoms: The Right to Conduct Military Activities in China's Exclusive Economic Zone' (2010) 9 Chinese J Int'l L 9, 29; R Pedrozo, 'Responding to Ms. Zhang's Talking Points on the EEZ' (2011) 10 Chinese J Int'l L 207, 213.
Naval Activity in the EEZ -Troubled Waters Ahead?' (1990) 39 Naval L Rev 67
  • S A Commander
  • Rose
  • Usn
Commander SA Rose, USN, 'Naval Activity in the EEZ -Troubled Waters Ahead?' (1990) 39 Naval L Rev 67, 78.
l L 9, 29; R Pedrozo, 'Responding to Ms. Zhang's Talking Points on the EEZ
  • J Chinese
  • Int
Chinese J Int'l L 9, 29; R Pedrozo, 'Responding to Ms. Zhang's Talking Points on the EEZ' (2011) 10
United States Protests Chinese Interference with US Naval Vessel, Vows Continued Operations' in Contemporary Practice of the United States Relating to International Law (2009) 103 Am J Int'l L 325, 351. See also US Department of Defense, 'DoD News Briefing with Geoff Morrell from the Pentagon
  • Valencia
Valencia (n 45). 76 JR Crook (ed), 'United States Protests Chinese Interference with US Naval Vessel, Vows Continued Operations' in Contemporary Practice of the United States Relating to International Law (2009) 103 Am J Int'l L 325, 351. See also US Department of Defense, 'DoD News Briefing with Geoff Morrell from the Pentagon' (11 March 2009) <http://www.defense.gov/Transcripts/Transcript.aspx?TranscriptID=4369> accessed 31 January 2012.
See also Rahman and Tsamenyi (n 2) 328; R Pedrozo, 'Preserving Navigational Rights and Freedoms: The Right to Conduct Military Activities in China's Exclusive Economic Zone
  • Stephens Rothwell
Rothwell and Stephens (n 25) 276. See also Rahman and Tsamenyi (n 2) 328; R Pedrozo, 'Preserving Navigational Rights and Freedoms: The Right to Conduct Military Activities in China's Exclusive Economic Zone' (2010) 9
See also 'China Says US Naval Ship Breaks Int'l, Chinese Law' Xinhua News Agency
  • Crook
Crook (n 76). See also 'China Says US Naval Ship Breaks Int'l, Chinese Law' Xinhua News Agency (10 March 2009) at <http://news.xinhuanet.com/ english/2009-03/10/content_10983647.htm> accessed 31 January 2012.