The EEZ regime in northeast Asia: Legal status of the EEZ and military activities in the EEZ

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One of the most controversial issues during the UN Conference on the Law of the Sea was to determine the legal status of the EEZ. The first view envisaged the zone as an extension of the territorial sea, where the coastal states would enjoy sovereignty with certain exceptions. The second view considered the zone to have the high seas status with certain modifications. The third view held that the EEZ was a sui generis zone with its own legal status. The first view was presented by several Latin American states. The second view reflected the concerns of Maritime Powers. The 1982 UN Convention stipulated broad jurisdiction and sovereign rights of coastal states as well as certain freedoms and duties of other states in the EEZ. Considering the general trend in the UN Conference and the relative articles of the Convention, it would be reasonable to regard the EEZ as a separate functional zone of a sui generis character, situated between the territorial sea and the high seas. It remains to be seen whether an agreement on the issue is reached by accumulation of state practice. Korea, China and Japan established the EEZ regime in the late 1990s. But they did not agree on the final maritime boundary delimitation. Instead, they concluded three bilateral fisheries agreements establishing several intermediate zones in the overlapping EEZ. As Korea, China and Japan take different stances on the EEZ, conflicts over military activities or marine scientific research in the EEZ make it more difficult for them to delimit maritime boundaries. Therefore, many agreements have yet to be reached on maritime boundaries relating to the EEZ or legal status of the EEZ among the coastal states in the region. The coastal states should manage and control the EEZ regime under those circumstances. This paper examines how the EEZ discourse could evolve in Northeast Asia in the future. It will begin with an overview of the legal status of the EEZ, followed by commentary on the EEZ regime in the domestic laws of coastal states concerned, and related issues. It provides interpretations on the relevant articles of the Convention as well as EEZ-related state practice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)67-83
Number of pages17
JournalKorean Journal of Defense Analysis
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2016


  • Boundary delimitation
  • EEZ
  • MSR
  • Military activities


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