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: the part of the ocean near a country's coast that is legally controlled by that country
Full Definition of TERRITORIAL WATERS
: the waters under the sovereign jurisdiction of a nation or state including both marginal sea and inland waters
First Known Use of TERRITORIAL WATERS
Waters under the sovereign jurisdiction of a nation or state, including both marginal sea and inland waters. The concept originated in the 17th-century controversy over the status of the sea. Though the doctrine that the sea must be free to all was upheld, a nation's jurisdiction over its coastal waters was also recognized. Nations subscribing to the Law of the Sea observe a territorial limit of 12 nautical mi (22 km) from shore. Territorial rights include the airspace above those waters and the seabed below them. See alsohigh seas.