The role of choke points in the ocean context
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Choke points are narrow international waterways where three characteristics are present. The waterway should be narrow and capable of being closed off to both commercial and military snipping. There should be no readily available maritime route to utilize in the event of closure. Finally, the choke point should be of considerable significance to at least several States. This article identifies seven “primary” choke points which seem to satisfy these criteria.
These are Gibraltar, Bab el Mandeb, Hormuz, the Danish and Turkish Straits, and the Suez and Panama Canals. It also identifies eleven “secondary” choke points, where at least one of the reouired characteristics is missing. The eleven include Dover, Bering and Magellan Straits, as well as Malacca-Singapore and a number of others in the Western Pacific.
Turning to a consideration of the status of choke points in a Post-Cold War era, the article notes four basic assumptions: (1) the intense military rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union will be reduced in coming years; (2) for many countries marine-related environmental concerns may be increasing considerably; (3) as the Cold War recedes, regional contests and confrontations will grow more intense; and (4) the overall densities of water-borne traffic will undergo change as the relative economic growth of regional centers changes. The article then considers the potential impact of these trends on the future role of choke points.
KeywordsIndian Ocean Minimum Depth Exclusive Economic Zone Suez Canal Luzon Strait
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