UNCLOS preserves U.S. rights in open ocean outside of territorial waters of coastal states
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A second critical right that UNCLOS guarantees is the ability to operate and conduct exercises in international waters beyond the territorial sea. Prior to the Convention, many coastal states were insisting on the right to exercise complete sovereignty out to as far as 200 miles or more from their land territory. While the Convention's provisions establish the right of coastal states to claim a 200 nautical mile (nm) exclusive economic zone, they may only exercise sovereign rights over economic activities, such as fishing, the exploration for and production of oil and gas from under the seabed, and the construction of artificial islands. Under the Convention, coastal states may not restrict freedom of navigation, including military training exercises, law- enforcement activities, and overflight within the EEZ. These provisions are of great benefit to our national security and global mobility interests. In addition to the global reach of the U.S. Navy and Air Force, Coast Guard units patrol the Persian Gulf, the Caribbean Sea, the eastern Pacific, and other vital maritime areas. There is a disturbing movement among some coastal states to attempt to transform their EEZs into the equivalent of a territorial sea, in which they may limit critical navigational freedoms. The U.S. Navy is concerned about apparent government attempts in China and Iran, for example, to assert excessive control over foreign operations within the EEZ as an "anti-access or sea denial strategy."'" In March 2009, five Chinese vessels "aggressively" shadowed and harassed the USNS Impeccable as it conducted operations in international waters seventy-five nm south of Hainan Island in the South China Sea.22 The United States must not sit on the sidelines while the international community is working out the nuances of how UNCLOS is to be interpreted and applied.
ILSA Journal of International and Comparative Law. Vol. 15, No. 2 (2008-2009): 573-586. [ More (8 quotes) ]"National Security and the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea: U.S. Coast Guard Perspectives."