The seaward movement of unilaterally claimed jurisdiction over fishing, mineral exploitation and other activities in waters beyond the territorial sea in the years immediately following problems for the codification of the international law of the sea. In some cases, notably along the coast of South America, these jurisdictional claims extended beyond the right to manage fisheries and to limit activities by foreign fishing fleets: the jurisdictional claims were, in content, extensions of the territorial sea with the attendant rights of the coastal state to restrict activities by foreign military vessels.
Freedom of navigation, including the right to conduct military activities, in the exclusive economic zone is essential for maritime powers for maintaining the effectiveness of their operations and for assuring the safety for shipping and other vessels under their flag, owned by their citizens or carrying their cargos. Restrictions on military activities in the world's EEZs could seriously hamper naval operations in both the EEZ at a destination and in transiting the ocean across other EEZs.
As the name implies, the Exclusive Economic Zone focuses on the right of coastal states to manage the resources within the zone and on and under its seabed. Rights in the EEZ were carefully negotiated to protect coastal state rights over the resources will also protecting the rights of free navigation and conduct of military activities within and above the zone.
A number of coastal states. particularly some bordering the Indian Ocean and South China Sea have made claims of authority over military activities in the EEZ. Others have extended Air Defense Identification Zones above their EEZ based only over their EEZ claims, in contrast with the United States' ADIZ that requires advance identification as a condition of entry to the airspace about the territorial sea (unlike ships and submarines, aircraft do not qualify for the right of innocent passage through the territorial sea so the coastal state ifs free to require information as a condition of entry into sovereign airspace about the territorial sea).
The erosion of old customary law of the sea and the insufficiency of the 1958 Geneva Conventions on the Law of the Sea led to the negotiation of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. For the United States the Convention serves as a firebreak against efforts to change the essential freedoms of the seas in a way detrimental to US security interests.