Foreign Military Research Conducted in a Coastal State's Maritime Zones - Preliminary Analysis

FNI Report 8/2001. Lysaker, FNI, 2001, 47 p.

Indefiniteness is the best characteristic of the law of the sea regimes involving foreign military navigation, activities and research, carried out in a coastal State’s maritime zones. Though preliminary results are presented here, over 50 different States forward claims which in some manner probably restrict navigation as regulated under regimes of the Law of the Sea Convention (LOSC), varying in degree. Even more States could likely be found. Foreign military research and activities carried out in a coastal State’s exclusive economic zone are essentially unregulated, with the exceptions of overflight rights and the rights, duties and immunities of foreign warships, especially in a coastal State’s territorial sea. Those provisions that do appear are characterised by problems of interpretation, and State practice appears diverse, especially by developing States, including the regional powers, Brazil, India, Iran and Pakistan.  Civilian marine scientific research (MSR) is regulated to a substantially greater degree, but problems of interpretation exist. State practice appears in greater compliance than with the above regimes. However, again the practice of several developing States and the regional powers Brazil, Russia and Indonesia is divergent. Further study of the actual State practice of the various relevant regimes as it is today regarding foreign military navigation, activities and research, and MSR, may aid in clarification of this as yet evolving area of international law. Controversy appears likely to continue regarding all these regimes in the years to come due to expanded coastal State jurisdiction related to the marine environment, exclusive exploitation of resources and security in the force of strengthened multipolarity and gradual erosion of U.S. naval hegemony. The shift to a non-hegemonic multipolar international system rather than clarifying these regimes under international law may in fact make them more obtuse. The regional naval powers, Russia, China, India, Brazil, Japan, Iran, and Indonesia and the superpower U.S., those with most interest in ‘freedom of navigation,’ have all as coastal States exhibited practices in excess of these LOSC regimes. It would seem the diverse State practice has a good likelihood of continuing.