Editorial Note

Article 7 of the El Salvadoran Constitution which took effect September 14, 1950, provided for the extension of Salvadoran sovereignty over the seabed, its subsoil, the corresponding continental shelf, and the air overhead for a distance of 200 miles offshore.

Prior to adoption of the new constitution, the United States took a position described as follows (in the Policy Statement for El Salvador dated October 9, 1950):

“Through diplomatic means we endeavored prior to final passage to achieve a modification of this article. We sought a return to the three-mile limit for purposes of sovereignty, and a limitation of jurisdiction beyond the three-mile limit to (a) the resources of the subsoil and sea beds of the continental shelf, and (b) the regulation for conservation purposes of contiguous high seas fisheries in which El Salvador has a substantial interest, providing that any other state also having such an interest were permitted to participate. We were not successful, and the article as finally adopted was not modified. We have therefore under consideration the filing of a protest with the Salvadoran Government against what we consider is an excessive unilateral extension of sovereignty.” (611.16/10–950)

On December 12, 1950, Ambassador George P. Shaw presented to Foreign Minister Roberto E. Canessa the Embassy’s Note No. 160, not printed, in which the United States stated in part that it would not consider its nationals or vessels or aircraft as being subject to provisions of Article 7 or any subsidiary legislation, (enclosure 1 to despatch 432 from San Salvador, December 12, 1950, 716.022/12–1250)

The United States coordinated much of its action on this question with the United Kingdom.

Additional documents regarding the United States response to Article 7 are in file 716.022 for 1950. Documentation on territorial sea questions is scheduled for publication in volume I.