Thailand Ratification of the Un Convention on the Law of the Sea

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Thailand Ratification of the Un Convention on the Law of the Sea

Thailand's Declarations on Ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea in 2011

United States views on international law (based on the document “Digest of U.S. Practice in International Law”): On May 15, 2011, the Kingdom of Thailand deposited with the United Nations its instrument of ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Thailand's instrument of ratification included five declarations relating to Article 310 of the Convention, one of which asserting that the enjoyment of freedom of navigation in the exclusive economic zone (“EEZ”) excluded non-peaceful use, in particular, military exercises, without consent. The United States delivered a diplomatic note to the ministry of foreign affairs of Thailand on October 6, 2011 protesting the assertion in this declaration. The substantive paragraphs of the diplomatic note are set forth below.


The United States wishes to recall that, although the United States is not yet a party to the Convention, it has long regarded the Convention as reflecting customary international law with respect to traditional uses of the ocean. Since President Ronald Reagan's 1983 Statement on United States Oceans Policy, the United States has acted in accordance with the 1982 Convention's balance of interests, including with respect to its exercise of navigation and overflight rights on a worldwide basis.

The United States also wishes to recall that, while Article 310 of the Convention allows States to make declarations at the time of signing, ratifying or acceding to the Convention, Article 310 also provides that such declarations may not purport to exclude or modify the legal effect of the provisions of the Convention in their application to the State making the declaration.

The United States disagrees with the fourth paragraph of Thailand's declaration stating that the provisions of the Convention exclude military activities in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) without the consent of the coastal State.

The United States wishes to recall that, within the exclusive economic zone, a coastal State has sovereign rights for the purpose of exploring, exploiting, conserving and managing the living and non-living natural resources of the water column and the sea-bed and its subsoil. The coastal State also has jurisdiction with regard to the protection and preservation of the marine environment, marine scientific research, and the establishment and use of artificial islands, installations and structures for economic purposes.


The United States also wishes to recall that pursuant to Article 56 of the Convention, a coastal State's rights and jurisdiction within its exclusive economic zone are subject to the rights and duties of other states as provided for in international law. Pursuant to Article 58, the rights specifically preserved for ships and aircrafts of all States in the exclusive economic zone include the freedom of navigation and overflight, and other internationally lawful uses of the sea related to those freedoms, without requirement to provide prior notification to or obtain prior permission from the coastal State. These include military exercises and maneuvers involving the use of weapons and explosives.

More about the Issue

The United States cannot accept the view that “military exercises or other activities [in the EEZ] which may affect the rights or interests of the coastal State” constitute “non-peaceful” uses of the seas. In this regard, the United States notes that while the Convention provides for the peaceful uses of the seas in Article 301, this provision is interpreted in line with Article 2.4 of the U.N. Charter; it does not authorize a coastal state to require prior notification of or its consent to military activities in its EEZ. With regard to the “interests” of the coastal state, the Convention does not recognize a security interest of the coastal State within the EEZ that would provide authority to regulate military activities of other States.

As reflected in the Convention, including the provisions referred to above, the United States considers that all States have the right to conduct military activities within the EEZ, subject to an obligation to have due regard to coastal State resource and other rights as well as the rights of other States as set forth in the Convention. It is the duty of the flag State, not the right of the coastal State, to enforce this due regard obligation.

Accordingly, the United States reserves its rights with regard to the matters addressed in the aforementioned declaration.


See Also

  • Territorial Regimes And Related Issues
  • Law Of The Sea
  • Boundary Issues
  • Freedoms Of Navigation
  • Overflight
  • Thailand
  • Un Conventions

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