The Seabed Arms Control Treaty
The Treaty on the Prohibition of the Emplacement of Nuclear Weapons and Other Weapons of Mass Destruction on the Seabed and Ocean Floor and in the Subsoil Thereof—known as the Seabed Arms Control Treaty—prohibits the placing or implanting of nuclear weapons, launching installations, or weapons storage facilities on the seabed and the ocean floor beyond a 12-mile coastal zone. The outer limits of the seabed treaty are coterminous with those established in the 1958 Convention on the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone. Each state party may undertake verification through its own means, with the assistance of any other state party or “through appropriate international procedures within the framework of the United Nations and in accordance with its Charter.” The Treaty also provides for observations by state parties of other state parties’ activities on the seabed, as long as observations do not infringe upon such activities. If reasonable doubt concerning a state party’s compliance arises from these observations, further measures may be taken to insure verification, ranging from inspections to Security Council interference. In addition, the Treaty does not support or prejudice the positions of any state party with respect to international law of the sea.
In the 1960s, advances in oceanographic technology evoked fear among members of the international community. Many believed these advancements would allow countries to install military fixtures on the seabed eventually. To prevent the militarization of the seabed, the UN General Assembly established the Eighteen-Nation Disarmament Committee (which later became known as the Conference of the Committee on Disarmament) to confront “seabed-related military and arms control issues.” The Committee’s efforts ultimately resulted in the Seabed Treaty.
The Seabed Treaty opened for signature on February 11, 1971 and entered into force on May 18, 1972, following ratification by United States, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and 22 other nations. As of June 2010, there are 97 parties to the Treaty.
Pursuant to Article 7 of the Treaty, a review conference for the Seabed Arms Control was to be convened five years after the Treaty entered into force to determine its effectiveness. A review conference was convened in 1977; it concluded that further review conferences would be required. Subsequently, review conferences were convened in 1983 and again in 1989. Though an additional conference was set to occur no earlier than 1996, the 1992 Conference on Disarmament deemed further Seabed review conferences unnecessary.
Sea Bed Arms Control Treaty. (n.d.). NTIP: Naval Treaty Implementation Program. Retrieved June 29, 2010, from http://www.ntip.navy.mil/sea_bed_arms_control_treaty.shtml
Sea-Bed Treaty (in chronological order by deposit). (n.d.). Status of Multilateral Arms Regulation and Disarmament Agreements. Retrieved from http://disarmament2.un.org/TreatyStatus.nsf
Treaty on the Prohibition of the Emplacement of Nuclear Weapons and Other Weapons of Mass Destruction on the Seabed and Ocean Floor and in the Subsoil Thereof. (n.d.). U.S. Department of State. Retrieved from http://www.state.gov/www/global/arms/treaties/seabed1.html
Treaty on the Prohibition of the Emplacement of Nuclear Weapons and Other Weapons of Mass Destruction on the Seabed and Ocean Floor and in the Subsoil Thereof (Seabed Treaty). (2008, February 1). Center for Nonproliferation Studies. Retrieved from http://www.nti.org/e_research/official_docs/inventory/pdfs/seabed.pdf