194. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Kuwait1

20862. Kuwait please pass to Oman. Subject: Extension of Territorial Sea and Fishing Zone of Oman. Ref: Letter of July 17, 1972, From Permanent Representative of Oman to Secretary General of United Nations.

1. For AmEmbassy Oman. In referenced letter, Oman notified United Nations of decrees on territorial sea, continental shelf and exclusive fishing zones and requested that decrees be brought to attention of all members of United Nations. Decree dated July 17, 1972, claims territorial sea of 12 nautical miles and fishing zone of 38 nautical miles seaward of the territorial sea. U.S. continues to hold that under international law a state is not required to recognize a territorial sea broader than 3 miles or exclusive fisheries jurisdiction beyond 12 miles from the coast. Continental shelf claim is to shelf depth of 200 meters or beyond that to where the waters admit of exploitation of resources, a standard that is generally based on the 1958 Continental Shelf Convention and which the United States will not protest. Because of U.S. position and because of current negotiations on Law of the Sea, Embassy is requested to deliver the following note of protest. The USG normally registers its opposition and reserves its legal rights through such a note.

2. Begin text (complimentary opening) . . . and refers to the decree of His Majesty Sultan Qabus of Oman, dated July 17, 1972, which purports to extend the territorial Sea of Oman to a distance of 12 nautical miles from the coast and the fishing zone of Oman to a distance of 38 nautical miles beyond the territorial sea. The United States regrets that Oman has made a unilateral claim to extend its territorial sea and fisheries zone in advance of international agreement on the maximum breadth of the territorial sea and jurisdiction and control over fisheries. It is particularly unfortunate that this action has been taken when vigorous efforts are underway in the United Nations to achieve the broadest possible international agreement on fisheries jurisdiction and the breadth of the territorial sea to accommodate the interests of all [Page 644] concerned states. In accordance with its long-standing policy, the United States deems it necessary to state that it is not obligated under international law to recognize territorial seas beyond 3 miles or coastal state fisheries jurisdiction beyond 12 miles from the coast.

Unilateral extensions of jurisdiction have an extremely negative effect on the current negotiations for the UN Law of the Sea Conference. Such extensions, particularly those to extensive areas of the oceans, encourage other states to make unilateral territorial sea claims or to assert their jurisdiction for special purposes such as control over fisheries. This severely limits the ability of such states to earnestly participate in the effort to achieve agreement on the many issues related to the Law of the Sea. The United Nations has now scheduled the Law of the Sea Conference for an organizational session in late 1973 and a substantive session to begin in April 1974. The United States hopes that all countries will participate in the Law of the Sea Conference in an effort to accommodate the needs of all nations.

In accordance with its stated positions, the United States must protest Oman’s action and accordingly reserves its rights and those of its nationals in all areas beyond the three mile territorial sea and with respect to areas of the exclusive fishing zone beyond 12 miles. (complimentary closing.) End text.

  1. Summary: The Department protested Oman’s recent claim to a 12-mile territorial limit.

    Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files, 1970–73, POL 23 Oman. Limited Official Use. Drafted by Acting Legal Adviser Charles Brower; cleared in IO/UNP, DOD, S/FW–COA, NEA/ARP, and the Departments of Commerce and Interior; approved in L by Counselor on International Law John Moore.