What is the Yellow Sea geopolitics

The fascinating consequences of the law of the sea on geopolitics

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea is a relatively new law. However, it can have immense effects, as these five examples illustrate.

The international law of the sea is an exciting matter: States like Denmark or Portugal are currently trying to inflate their state territory by a factor of twenty, which is likely to have far-reaching effects on the economies of the countries.

The example of the Aegean Sea and the consequences of the conflict between Turkey and Greece shows the explosiveness of the law of the sea - and, like the tense situation in the South China Sea, is a prime example of how this right is used in the power politics of the great powers.

It was also the great powers who initiated a revision of the rules in the 20th century. Previously, the first three nautical miles off a coast were considered sovereign waters: In this 5.5 kilometers wide zone, a nation had full sovereignty. She owned mineral resources as well as living beings in the area, and the state could control and restrict shipping there.

More sea

But after more and more states like the USA had expanded their territorial waters and zones of three, six, twelve and more nautical miles had been established in 1960, the United Nations tried to create a set of rules that would apply to all. In 1982 these efforts resulted in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Switzerland acceded to the Convention on the Law of the Sea in 2009.

The changed rules are tough: the territorial waters can be extended from the so-called baseline to twelve nautical miles or 22.2 kilometers. The Exclusive Economic Zone extends up to 200 nautical miles or 370.4 kilometers from the baseline. Here, too, natural resources and fishing rights belong to the state, but here the right of peaceful passage applies to ships of other nations.

But it makes a real difference when a nation claims the continental shelf and extends its claims to 350 nautical miles or 648 kilometers. In this zone, the state no longer has a right to marine animals, but it does have a right to mineral resources. To do this, however, the country must scientifically prove that the continental shelf actually lies on the same continental plate.

Because this is not the case with the North Pole and the Arctic bordering Norway and the USA, they cannot make any claims. And because the necessary mapping of the seabed and the necessary retrieval of soil samples from the sea is so laborious, underdeveloped nations have little chance of asserting their rights.

The concrete effects this can have is illustrated by ...

... example of Portugal

You can see here how Portugal intends to increase its territory twenty-fold in the coming year and how the sea zones function.

Portugal with its ten million inhabitants consists mainly of the mainland on the Iberian Peninsula, but Madeira and the Azores also belong to the nation and have 22.2 kilometers of territorial waters, as can be seen here.

Image: YouTube / CaspianReport

How valuable islands become in maritime law can be seen on a map showing the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ). Portugal has applied to the United Nations for an extension to be decided in 2021 ...

Image: YouTube / CaspianReport

... and which covers an enormous, continuous area in which all natural resources would belong to Portugal. The country also holds fishing rights in the EEZ, but must allow foreign ships to pass through it peacefully.

Image: YouTube / CaspianReport

This is made possible by the claim to the continental shelf that this map of the sea floor shows.

Image: YouTube / CaspianReport

A map of the flow of goods in the Atlantic illustrates the strategic importance of the sea zones.

Image: YouTube / CaspianReport

Portugal with its ten million inhabitants consists mainly of the mainland on the Iberian Peninsula, but Madeira and the Azores also belong to the nation and have 22.2 kilometers of territorial waters, as can be seen here.

Image: YouTube / CaspianReport

How valuable islands become in maritime law can be seen on a map showing the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ). Portugal has applied to the United Nations for an extension to be decided in 2021 ...

Image: YouTube / CaspianReport

... and which covers an enormous, continuous area in which all natural resources would belong to Portugal. The country also holds fishing rights in the EEZ, but must allow foreign ships to pass through it peacefully.

Image: YouTube / CaspianReport

This is made possible by the claim to the continental shelf that this map of the sea floor shows.

Image: YouTube / CaspianReport

A map of the flow of goods in the Atlantic illustrates the strategic importance of the sea zones.

Image: YouTube / CaspianReport

Example North Pole

Even small Denmark has big plans and wants to increase its territory twenty-fold. In contrast to Portugal, however, the Northern Lights have competition. The filing of claims is a scientific process, but if several nations put forward valid arguments, the relevant UN authority usually simply drops the case.

Who is running for the ground under the North Pole? The candidates including their Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) are: Russia (green), Canada (yellow) and Denmark (via Greenland, red). Why Norway and the USA (via Alaska) are not on board ...

Image: YouTube / CaspianReport

... shows a map of the sea floor under the North Pole: The two states have no connection to the continental plate, which ...

Image: YouTube / CaspianReport

... is shared by the Lomonosov ridge. The 1,800 kilometers long underwater mountains stretch from Siberia to Greenland. While the countries bordering the Arctic USA and Norway cannot expand their sea zones, ...

Image: YouTube / CaspianReport

... you can see the registered claims of the other three, which include the North Pole. Exciting: Russian rock samples from the Lomonossow Ridge, which match others from the sea off Siberia and with which Moscow underpins its rights ...

Image: YouTube / CaspianReport

... also match rock samples from the sea off Canada. The laughing third could be Denmark, which wants to prove that the underwater mountains are in themselves a continuation of the Greenland mass. Then Denmark would border directly on the Russian EEZ.

Image: YouTube / CaspianReport