Maritime Hegemony and the Fiction of the Free Sea: Explaining States’ Claims to Maritime Jurisdiction

62 Pages Posted: 2 Jul 2016 Last revised: 9 Jul 2016

See all articles by Rachel Esplin Odell

Rachel Esplin Odell

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Political Science, Students; Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Date Written: June 30, 2016

Abstract

Why do states claim limited, moderate, or expansive jurisdiction over the waters adjacent to their coasts? I argue that because of the unique role of the maritime hegemon in shaping the law of the sea to conform to its interests, the primary variable determining a state’s positions on coastal state jurisdiction is the nature of its relationship to the maritime hegemon — allied, adversarial, or neutral. Other variables that exert important influence on the state’s claim include its perceptions of threat from regional maritime powers and its own capability to project power to other states’ coasts. This theory not only enables deductive prediction of states’ maritime jurisdictional claims, but also provides insights into the process of hegemonic order-building in international relations. After developing this theory, I test it with initial plausibility probes, including an analysis of the contemporary maritime claims of the United States as the maritime hegemon, as well as two controlled comparisons of the current maritime claims of Japan and China, ally and adversary of the United States, and Chile and Peru, states with neutral relationships to the maritime hegemon. The theory’s explanatory variables accurately correlate with the outcomes in these studies, with the United States claiming limited jurisdiction over the activities of foreign militaries in its exclusive economic zone, Japan and Chile claiming limited jurisdiction (with caveats), China claiming moderate jurisdiction, and Peru claiming expansive jurisdiction.

Keywords: international law, law of the sea, UNCLOS, hegemony, world order, China, Japan, Chile, Peru, maritime security, naval competition

Suggested Citation

Odell, Rachel, Maritime Hegemony and the Fiction of the Free Sea: Explaining States’ Claims to Maritime Jurisdiction (June 30, 2016). MIT Political Science Department Research Paper No. 2016-21. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2802204 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2802204

Rachel Odell (Contact Author)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Political Science, Students ( email )

Cambridge, MA
United States

HOME PAGE: http://polisci.mit.edu/people/rachel-esplin-odell

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

1779 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20036
United States

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