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in international law, a system of measures undertaken during armed conflict. Its aim is to preclude the enemy’s access to a seacoast so that the enemy will be forced to relinquish the use of its own or occupied ports, naval bases, and shores with adjacent seawaters for commercial and all other maritime relations with other states. By declaring a naval blockade, the belligerent states attempt to cut off the maritime communications of a hostile state in order to weaken the enemy’s economic resources to the maximum and deprive it of the possibility of trading with neutral countries.
A naval blockade is not merely a particular method of struggle between belligerent parties; it is also a military measure that infringes upon the interests of nonbelligerent states insofar as its implementation obstructs the maintenance of communications with the blockaded region, and all attempts by ships to pass through to the blockaded point may end in their seizure by the blockading party.
Naval blockades are regulated by the rules of the declarations of Paris (1856) and London (1909) and by the customary norms of international law. In accordance with the Declaration of London of 1909, when a blockade is declared the date when it begins, the geographical boundaries of the blockaded shore, and the period of time in which neutral vessels are to leave blockaded ports must be indicated. Neutral states are to be notified of the declaration of a naval blockade through diplomatic channels.
In international law there is also the concept of a naval blockade carried out in peacetime as an enforcement action against a state that has violated norms of international law.
The UN Charter provides for a naval blockade as a possible collective measure to reestablish and maintain international peace and security; it is undertaken by decision of the UN Security Council. In all other cases, an armed blockade carried out first by one state against another is to be regarded as an act of armed aggression. According to the definition of aggression proposed by the USSR and confirmed in the Conferences of London of 1933, the state that first establishes a naval blockade of the shores or ports of another state must be recognized as the attacking party.
The norms of international law on blockades mentioned above have been grossly and repeatedly violated by the imperialist states. For example, in October 1962 the US Navy was ordered to intercept all ships bound for Cuba, subject them to examination, and prevent the passage of any vessel with arms defined as offensive by the American authorities. These actions by the USA constituted a gross defiance of the norms of international law and, in particular, the principles of the UN Charter. Waging an aggressive war in Vietnam, the USA organized so-called patrolling by the warships of the American Seventh Fleet in the South China Sea—that is, an illegal naval blockade of the shores of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam was, in effect, set up.
A. I. IOIRISH