The Seabed Arms Control Treaty (or Seabed Treaty, formally the Treaty on the Prohibition of the Emplacement of Nuclear Weapons and Other Weapons of Mass Destruction on the Sea-Bed and the Ocean Floor and in the Subsoil thereof) is a multilateral agreement between the United States, Soviet Union (now Russia), United Kingdom, and 91 other countries banning the emplacement of nuclear weapons or "weapons of mass destruction" on the ocean floor beyond a 12-mile (22.2 km) coastal zone. It allows signatories to observe all seabed "activities" of any other signatory beyond the 12-mile zone to ensure compliance.
The full name of the treaty is the Treaty on the Prohibition of the Emplacement of Nuclear Weapons and other Weapons of Mass Destruction on the Sea-Bed and the Ocean Floor and in the Subsoil Thereof.
Like the Antarctic Treaty, the Outer Space Treaty, and the Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone treaties, the Seabed Arms Control Treaty sought to prevent the introduction of international conflict and nuclear weapons into an area hitherto free of them. Reaching agreement on the seabed, however, involved problems not met in framing the other two agreements.
In the 1960s, advances in the technology of oceanography and greatly increased interest in the vast and virtually untapped resources of the ocean floor led to concern that the absence of clearly established rules of law might lead to strife. And there were concurrent fears that nations might use the seabed as a new environment for military installations, including those capable of launching nuclear weapons.
In keeping with a proposal submitted to the U.N. Secretary General by Ambassador Pardo of Malta in August 1967, the U.N. General Assembly, on 18 December 1967, established an ad hoc committee to study ways of reserving the seabed for peaceful purposes, with the objective of ensuring "that the exploration and use of the seabed and the ocean floor should be conducted in accordance with the principles and purposes of the Charter of the United Nations, in the interests of maintaining international peace and security and for the benefit of all mankind." The Committee was given permanent status the following year. At the same time, seabed-related military and arms control issues were referred to the Eighteen Nation Committee on Disarmament (ENDC) and its successor, the Conference of the Committee on Disarmament (CCD). In a message of 18 March 1969, President Nixon said the American delegation to the ENDC should seek discussion of the factors necessary for an international agreement prohibiting the emplacement of weapons of mass destruction on the seabed and ocean floor and pointed out that an agreement of this kind would, like the Antarctic and Outer Space treaties, "prevent an arms race before it has a chance to start."
The Seabed Arms Control Treaty was opened for signature in Washington, London, and Moscow on 11 February 1971. It entered into force 18 May 1972, when the United States, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, and more than 22 nations had deposited instruments of ratification. As of May 2013, 94 current states are parties to the treaty, while another 21 have signed the treaty but have not completed ratification.
- International Seabed Authority
- "Treaty on the Prohibition of the Emplacement of Nuclear Weapons and Other Weapons of Mass Destruction on the Sea-Bed and the Ocean Floor and in the Subsoil Thereof". United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs. http://disarmament.un.org/treaties/t/sea_bed/deposit/asc. Retrieved 7 March 2013.
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- Text of the treaty
- Seabed Arms Control Treaty, Federation of American Scientists
- Treaty on the Prohibition of the Emplacement of Nuclear Weapons and other Weapons of Mass Destruction on the Sea-Bed and the Ocean Floor and in the Subsoil Thereof, United States Department of State
- Signatories and ratifications list
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