How far offshore do international waters begin?

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    You’re going to love this. (You could easily make an entire career with this subject.) The 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea says there is a limit of at most 12 miles of territory from a “coastal state”. But have a look at the graphic in this Wikipedia article. That ain’t all countries are claiming.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Territorial_waters 

    There are kinds of rights being claimed, at various distances.

    One problem is that in 1982 it wasn’t quiiiiiiite clear just how important mining and fishing in the sea would become. Countries whose attitude was “so what” or “what can we do about it” are now seeing big, big possible profits.

    So a lovely example to jump in with is current disputes about the South China Sea. China is once again in history a big player on the international stage. It’s important to remember that in the last decades the Chines have done some of the biggest land-grabs of the last century. They just rolled into Mongolia and Tibet, and dared anyone to stop them. They tried to take South Korea and Vietnam, by proxy.

    Read the Wikipedia article below. It starts by pointing out that China is now claiming sea that is 100s of miles away from the Chinese mainland, and which has economic — and especially military — importance. This sea area is also claimed by Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei.

    Are they spoiling for a fight? You bet. And they have plenty of money. They have the second largest military budget in the world, and person-for-person, they spend almost twice as much as Uncle Sam, who is the first largest.

    Since no one has threatened to attack China in any major, significant way for decades, the writing is on the wall: China intends to attack, or at the very least, to bully.

    And international waters are likely to be the place the disputes escalate.

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