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Part 1 The Cold War Era (1945–89), 14 The USS Pueblo Incident—1968

Wolff Heintschel von Heinegg

From: The Use of Force in International Law: A Case-Based Approach

Edited By: Tom Ruys, Olivier Corten, Alexandra Hofer

From: Oxford Public International Law (http://opil.ouplaw.com). (c) Oxford University Press, 2023. All Rights Reserved.date: 25 May 2024

Self-defence — Nationality of ships — Territorial sea — Armed forces — Ius ad bellum

This contribution discusses the 1968 USS Pueblo Incident by assessing the factual background on the basis of available documents and by providing a legal analysis on the basis of the then applicable international law. In view of the contentious issue of the USS Pueblo’s location at the time of the attack and her seizure by the armed forces of the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea, the discussion of the legal issues at stake is not limited to the ius ad bellum but must be extended to the law of the sea, in particular the breadth of the territorial sea according to customary international law recognized in 1968 and the status of foreign warships. As regards the ius ad bellum, the unjustified use of force against a sovereign immune warship is considered an armed attack triggering the flag state’s right of self-defence.

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