UNCLOS and territorialization of the seas: the case of Indian and Pacific Oceans
ResumenThe 200-nautical-mile Exclusive Economic Zone created by the 1982 UNCLOS regime generates conflict in areas where the distance between opposite national coasts is less than 400 nautical miles and in marginal seas surrounded by many states and with islands. This is the case of the marginal seas in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. In particular, the EEZ regime has proved troublesome in the South China Sea, leading some authors to ask whether it has actually strengthened or undermined peace and cooperation. Does the problem really lie with UNCLOS? My purpose hereby is to explain that, in truth, UNCLOS is a milestone in the process of territorialization of the seas. The EEZ regime represents the balance between the opposing pressures coming from the coastal States and the third states, generally the maritime powers; however, and in spite of the fact that, pursuant to LOS Convention, coastal States enjoy sovereign rights and not sovereignty in the EEZ, it will be argued here that coastal States do in practice behave with respect to their EEZs as if they were their own sovereign territory. This is particularly true of the contentious areas of the Indian and Pacific Oceans.
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