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A Study on the Establishment and Enforcement of War Zonesin Major Armed Conflict at Sea since the First World War

Lee, Min-hyo 1

1해군사관학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

In modern armed conflicts at sea, belligerent states have been setting up ‘war zones’ in which all ships, neutral or enemy, are subject to sinking on sight to facilitate identification of military objectives and defence against hostile acts. The practice of establishment of ‘war zones’ evolved during World War Ⅰand Ⅱ, and was resorted to in the Iran-Iraq War, the Falkland Islands War and the Gulf War. These zones were based on the right of reprisal against alleged illegal behavior of the enemy and were used to justify the exercise of control over, or capture and destruction of neutral vessels not otherwise permitted by the rules of naval warfare. Moreover, even apart from the creation of such zones, belligerent states often tend to attack without warning all merchants whose activities they regard as economically advantageous for the enemy. ‘War zones’ have been justified, at least in part, as reasonable, albeit coercive, measures to contain the geographic area of the conflict or to keep neutral shipping at a safe distance from areas of actual or potential hostilities. To the extend that such zones serve to warn neutral vessels and aircraft away from belligerent activities and thereby reduce their exposure to collateral damage and incident injury and to the extent that they do not unreasonably interfere with legitimate neutral commerce, they are undoubtedly lawful. But the issue of the zones is not addressed in treaties relevant to the law of naval warfare. Thus it is desirable to develop guidelines for war zones to frustrate the excessive enlargement of the extent of zones and arbitrary action of belligerent states. They should reduce unnecessary conflicts between belligerent states and neutral States by observing the guidelines. The guidelines must comprise following criteria. (1) The establishment of ‘war zones’ must be effective. Hence sufficient units of air forces and naval forces must be charged to enforce the zone. (2) The extent, location and duration of the zones and measures imposed shall not exceed what is strictly required by military necessity and the principle of proportionality. (3) Due regard shall be given to the rights of neutral States to legitimate uses of the zones. (4) The commencement, duration, location and extent of the zones, as well as the restrictions imposed, shall be announced in public. (5) A belligerent State cannot be absolved from its duties under international humanitarian law by establishing zones.

Citation status

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