This Day in the Law
February 11

Seabed Arms Control Treaty Proposed (1971)

On February 11, 1971, the United States, the Soviet Union, and the United Kingdom signed the Seabed Arms Control Treaty, outlawing nuclear weapons in international waters.

The aim of the Treaty was to prevent introducing nuclear weapons into areas previously free of them. This thinking also spurred the creation of the Antarctic Treaty and the Outer Space Treaty. (Please read "How Does the Law Work in Antarctica" for further details.)

The Seabed Arms Control Treaty was proposed in the early 1970s because the 1960s saw increased interest in the previously untapped ocean floor. This was due to advancements in technology and oceanography. Several world leaders, including President Richard Nixon, aimed to prevent an arms-race from occurring.

The Seabed Arms Control Treaty (full name: 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) decreed that no nuclear weapons were to be placed on the ocean floor beyond a 12-mile (22.2 km) coastal zone.

The Treaty opened for signatures in Washington, London, and Moscow on February 11, 1971, and entered in to force in May of the following year.

Related Legal Articles