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In the April 13th, 2008 edition of the Amarillo Globe-News, Professor Syed Tariq Anwar of West Texas A&M University presented a case for US leadership in protecting the Arctic. Among his points was this comment regarding the Law of the Sea Convention:
From a global business perspective, we need a unified Arctic plan based on an acceptable treaty. Being the most powerful nation on earth, it is expected that the U.S. will be supporting the Law of the Sea Treaty, which was favored by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee by a 17-4 vote last November. It is also critical that we favor the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS). Many people and organizations are endorsing this treaty. Two former secretaries of state (James Baker and George Shultz), former admirals, various industry organizations, politicians and business leaders from the U.S. have supported the treaty. For the U.S., the contentious treaty issues continue to be national sovereignty and security, coastal state extension and the continental shelf beyond 200 miles, taxation, exploration and licensing rights, and problems of eminent domain.
Law of the Sea debates can be both intense and boring - after all, the negotiations were once selected as one of the 10 Most Boring Things in New York City. Every once in a while it helps to look at the subject from a new perspective.
Gail Collins at the New York TImes gives just such a look in her column of November 3rd. She gives a quick snapshot of the opposing sides:
...While the pros will tell you all about the importance of having a rational system for arbitrating disputes over the Alaskan continental shelf, the cons spin up conspiracy theories about how the International Seabed Authority will force us to give up our cars and cancel the war on terror.
Just take my word. The Navy wants the treaty. Greenpeace wants the treaty. The oil and gas industry wants the treaty.
Her real point is aimed at the candidates for the GOP presidential nomination. After poking John McCain for his campaign conversion, she shines some light on others in the crowd:
The other candidates have issued statements that seem to reflect an inability to come up with any rational arguments. Rudy Giuliani said he “cannot support the creation of yet another unaccountable international bureaucracy that might infringe on American sovereignty and curtail America’s freedoms,” and Fred Thompson roused himself long enough to announce that “the efforts of treaty proponents would be better spent reforming an ineffective, unaccountable and corrupt United Nations.” Mitt Romney’s spokesman just said Mitt has “concerns.”
Meanwhile, Mike Huckabee called the treaty “the dumbest thing we’ve ever done.”
Pause now to make a list of things we’ve done that you think might be dumber.
Loreliei Kelly, writing at Democracy Arsenal, discusses linkages between national security and the environment. She points to the Law of the Sea Convention as an example of linkages between security and the environment, and other issues as well.
She also points out the difficulty of addressing these issues, each difficult on their own and much more so for their interlinkages. The problem is made more difficult by opponents of the convention who base their opposition on faulty interpretations of the convention, misinformation and a record of failure in building productive relationships with other countries. Her two sentence summary of the issue of Senate approval of the Convention is:
There is a huge upside to America signing this treaty versus a negligible downside. At the end of the day, the Law of the Sea detractors are global anti-socials whose preferred method of interaction for nearly every international problem is physical intimidation.
Lorelei is right - the LOS Convention greatly expands the area of the ocean and continental shelf under sovereign US control, it provides the basis for a comprehensive regime for the Arctic that protects our sovereignty, our security and our sustainable use of resources. It creates the legal regime that can allow US industry to rebuild itself as a leader in deep seabed mining. At the same time, it protects our rights to transit critical international straits, gives access to distant water fisheries, sets requirements for countries from Russia to the least developed states for the protection of the marine environment, and provides ways to settle disputes without recourse to armed conflict. And it accomplishes all this at an insignificant cost while even improving relationships with our allies, neighbors and maritime partners.
For many people who are considering the Law of the Sea Convention for the first time, the question "What Would Reagan Do?" takes on special interest. Former advisors who once stood to Reagan's right say he would oppose the Convention, but Reagan's senior foreign policy advisors and the staff that prepared his decision memorandum on the Convention say he would support the Convention once it was modified according to his criteria in 1994.
National Journal published a story last Friday that addresses this issue. It is an interesting story that should be read by anyone interested in Reagan's legacy in foreign policy and the attempts by some to stretch his legacy to pet causes. The conclusion, however, leaves us all on our own to resolve the issue:
As for Reagan, it isn't clear what he would say. He believed in guns, but he also believed in
diplomacy. He undertook a massive buildup of American arms, but he also negotiated arms
reductions with the Soviet Union. He distrusted the United Nations, but he believed in American
business. People can ask what he would do, but he's dead. He can't answer.
San Diego Union-Tribune
October 14, 2007
Debating 'LOST' - Should The U.S. Ratify The Law Of The Sea Treaty?
Yes: A plus for the Navy, U.S. maritime industries
By James D. Watkins and Leon E. Panetta
As politicians in Washington, D.C., struggle to find common ground on issues of national importance, one that is ripe for action - that enjoys overwhelming bipartisan support - is United States accession to the Law of the Sea Convention. The convention is vital to our national security interests, sovereignty, maritime industry and our leadership role in international ocean policy.
Thankfully, recent hearings before the Committee on Foreign Relations have rekindled attention within the Senate and the opportunity to take action on a treaty that would greatly advance U.S. interests is easily within the Senate's grasp.
Support for the convention comes from a broad, bipartisan coalition of political, military, economic, academic and environmental leaders. This support is clearly articulated in a letter sent to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Sept. 24 from 101 prominent leaders, including 16 former Cabinet-level officials; nine governors; representatives of major oil and gas, commercial shipping and fishing industries; and the environmental community. The letter urges the Senate to expeditiously approve U.S. accession to the convention, stating "[i]t is clear that accession will protect and enhance our country's sovereign military, economic, and environmental interests."
The convention has the support of President Bush, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the national security adviser and the secretaries of Defense, State, Commerce, Homeland Security and Interior. A personal statement issued by President Bush on May 15 states that "[j]oining will serve the national security interests of the United States, including maritime mobility of our armed forces worldwide. It will secure U.S. sovereign rights over extensive marine areas, including the valuable natural resources they contain. And it will give the United States a seat at the table when the rights that are vital to our interests are debated and interpreted."
Gaffney Lost on Law of the Sea
by Martine Apodaca
The UN Convention on Law of the Sea, which came into force in 1994 and has been ratified by 154 countries and the European Community, has been gathering steam in the U.S. Senate, is widely supported by both government and business leaders, and appears to be on track for ratification by the U.S.
This seems to be frightening a fringe group led by Frank Gaffney, a neocon columnist for the Washington Times and the National Review online, who has launched a nonsensical attack on the effort for U.S. ratification, claiming that the bid is a "UN power grab" and that US accession would transform the UN into a "world government" and force the United States to surrender sovereignty and immense resources in the sea and on the sea bed. Those unfounded views are reflected in Gaffney's column yesterday in the Washington Times.
Gaffney apparently thinks he knows how to protect U.S. national and security interests better than the President, the Secretary of the Navy, and the combined leaders of the U.S. petroleum, fishing, mining, and shipping industries. That's not a bet that the U.S. Senate should take.
Rather than acknowledge and debate the vast military, economic, and environmental benefits of UNCLOS, Mr. Gaffney chooses to scare-monger about "international taxes" and "world government." UNCLOS establishes neither. Mr. Gaffney also doesn't acknowledge that an international race for oil, fish, diamonds and shipping routes has begun and is being accelerated by global warming as the arctic ice cap recedes. At stake are a possible 460,000 square miles of Arctic seabed that could hold as much as 25 percent of the world's undiscovered oil and gas, valuable commodities like gold, diamonds, fishing stocks, and lucrative freight routes.
The race is on.
Other nations are moving to take advantage of this situation. In August 2007, Russia planted its national flag on the seabed beneath the North Pole, calling international attention to a dubious claim to ownership of the North Pole and the Lomonosov Ridge -- with substantial potential oil, gas, and mineral deposits. The Canadians are staking claims in the arctic as well. In August 2007, Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper set off on a three-day tour of the region and announced plans to build two new military bases to reinforce Canada's territorial claims, and the Canadians are spending $7 billion on new arctic patrol vessels.
The U.S., however, has taken itself out of the race; only nations who are party to the Convention can make such claims -- or challenge the claims of others. Thus, while nations struggle for control of the arctic, the U.S. is sitting on the sidelines.
In truth, Mr. Gaffney is nearly alone on the far fringes in opposition to the Convention. Perhaps that is why he is making such desperate and outlandish arguments.
I've left Gaffney's sovereignty claims until last because they are perhaps the most ridiculous.
The Convention has, in fact, been called, correctly, a U.S. land grab because it expands U.S. sovereignty and sovereign rights over extensive maritime territory and natural resources off its coast. It provides a 12-mile territorial sea subject to U.S. sovereignty, U.S. sovereign rights over resources within a 200-mile exclusive economic zone, and U.S. sovereign rights over offshore resources (including minerals) to the outer edge of the continental margin, which extends well beyond 200 miles in several areas, including up to 600 miles off Alaska. This Convention clearly expands our sovereignty.
The Convention has a built-in, dispute-resolution forum where nations can come together to peacefully and efficiently settle disagreements. The deep seabed mining provisions would not apply to any areas in which the U.S. has sovereignty or sovereign rights. Further, these rules will facilitate mining activities by U.S. companies. Investors would have the legal certainty of the convention to protect their claims and investments. And the navigational provisions ensure that U.S. military and commercial vessels have worldwide maritime mobility with the backing of international law and not subject to the whims of any nation.
Senate ratification of the convention is inarguably in America's best interest. Scaremongering to the contrary is simply irresponsible.
September 27, 2007
NewsDay published an editorial today endorsing the Administration's request for Senate advice and consent to join the Law of the Sea Convention.
An impressive coalition of environmental, military and business leaders urged the United States Senate this week to do what it should have done 25 years ago: become a party to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Far from eroding American sovereignty, as critics have oddly maintained, this agreement can protect the nation's vital interests on a broad array of issues - but only if we're at the table, along with 155 other nations.
After reviewing the history of US leadership in creating the Convention, its endorsement by over 100 civic leaders, headed by Admiral James Watkins and Leon Panetta, and the US interests promoted by the Convention in establishing our claim to the Arctic seabed, NewsDay went on to say:
Even President George W. Bush, no fan of international accords, supports this move. Let's hope he shows leadership and pushes the Senate to get it done.
23 September, 2007
Law Of The Sea: An orderly world
SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER EDITORIAL BOARD
In hearings this week, the U.S. Senate will again consider the long-postponed ratification of the U.N. Convention of the Law of the Sea. The Senate should sail beyond the conservative fantasies about a loss of sovereignty.
Without the treaty, the U.S. has no ability to assert its sovereign rights over areas offshore from Alaska. By ratifying the treaty, which came into force internationally in 1994, however, the U.S. can claim exclusive economic rights 230 miles off the coast, where large oil reserves may lie.
As Sen. Maria Cantwell advocates, the country also needs to update the Coast Guard's Arctic icebreaking fleet, based in Seattle. As the Arctic sea ice disappears because of global warming and wind fluctuations, there will be more need than ever for researching and assisting shipping in the region.
Already, the reduction in the ice cover is setting off jockeying for claims in the Arctic by Russia, Canada and other countries. Even if the oil reserves are less than suspected, economic and environmental interests increasingly will come into play.
Conservatives like to complain about international law limiting U.S. sovereignty. International law's real effects may be modest, but they tend to create a safer, more orderly world. While the scaremongering about the United Nations continues, the Bush administration and the U.S. military are supporting ratification of the Law of the Sea treaty. That's a sure sign that Senate action is long overdue.
Ratify sea treaty: U.S. Senate should end delay
Salt Lake Tribune
Article Last Updated:09/04/2007 06:28:55 PM MDT
Remember when the Russians planted their flag last month on the ocean floor beneath the North Pole? Some people in the commentariat called it a publicity stunt.
Maybe it was. But if it causes the U.S. Senate finally to weigh anchor and ratify the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, it will have been a good thing for the United States, although that's probably not what the Russians had in mind.
From Saturday's (September 1st, 2007) Eugene, Oregon Register-Guard editorial page comes this conclusion:
Now, President George W. Bush says he fully supports the treaty and intends to push for its ratification. That's welcome news, because the treaty not only governs ocean boundaries and mineral resources, but also provides legal frameworks for determining rights of passage by military and commercial vessels, scientific research, pollution control and environmental resources.
Given that oceans cover more than 70 percent of Earth's surface, surely it's in America's best interest to come to the international table known as the Law of the Sea.
Click on "Read full article" for the complete text of the editorial.
Lee Hamilton, president of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and former chairman of the House Committee on International Relations endorsed the Law of the Sea Convention in an op-ed in today's (August 27, 2007) Indianapolis Star. His conclusion is"
America cannot advance its interests in a globalizing world without strong international partnerships and legal frameworks. When we turn our back on the world, we weaken our ability to lead, and we miss important opportunities to press our case. The Law of the Sea is an international framework that advances American interests on many different fronts. It's time to reap the full rewards of that success. It's time to ratify this treaty.
The full text is available on the site of the <a href="http://www.indystar.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070827/OPINION/708270327/-1/LOCAL17" target=_blank>Indianapolis Star
The New York Times on US Accession to the Law of the Sea Convention (click "Read full article" or "View Editorial at NYT" for full text):
August 25, 2007
A Treaty Whose Time Has Come
A solemn international treaty known as the Law of the Sea Convention will celebrate its 25th anniversary this December, and for 25 years the mere mention of its name has been enough to induce deep slumber. Yet for all kinds of reasons — not least growing fears about the availability of energy resources — people are finally paying attention. That includes the Senate, where right-wing scare tactics and official inertia have long blocked the treaty’s ratification, leaving America as the only major power standing on the sidelines.
From the Los Angeles Times in an editorial titled "The Cold Rush", the paper addresses the US Senate's need to give advice and consent to joining the Law of the Sea Convention:
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid should make time to approve the treaty as soon as possible. But the Senate should also ponder the future of the Arctic and how its treasures can best be used and safeguarded for the future. To ravage the melting ice cap for fossil fuels that will further warm and pollute the North Pole would be a tragedy for humankind.
The full text of the editorial is available on the <a href="http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/editorials/la-ed-northpole24aug24,0,7871576.story?coll=la-news-comment-editorials" target=_blank>LA Times web site.
The Wall Street Journal, August 21, 2007 article by Neil King, Jr, titled U.S. Resistance to Sea Treaty Thaws
begins with this opening Q&A:
What do the Nature Conservancy, Exxon Mobil Corp., offshore oil drillers, the fishing, shipping and diamond industries, President Bush and the U.S. Navy have in common?
Answer: They all support a little-known but highly contentious international treaty -- set to come before the U.S. Senate next month for ratification -- that governs nearly every aspect of ocean law, from underwater mineral rights to access to shipping lanes.
In an editorial regarding US activities in the Arctic, the Seattle Times identified the LOS Convention as the first step in a more effective, more aggressive Arctic Ocean policy:
First, the Senate must ratify a 25-year-old United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which has languished since the Reagan administration worried about ceding sovereignty to an international body. The U.S. hesitated, and now is on the outside looking in.
The<a href="http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/editorialsopinion/2003842766_arcted20.html" target=_blank> full editorial is available at the Seattle Times web site.
<a href=http://blogs.usatoday.com/oped/2007/08/our-view-on-law.html" target=_blank>USA Today (August 14, 2007) gave its endorsement for US ratification of the LOS Convention:
When President Reagan refused to endorse the Law of the Sea back in the 1980s, one of his chief U.N. envoys was Ken Adelman. Adelman now has changed his mind. Many Republican senators are still opposed, but they, too, should reconsider. Ratifying the treaty will help the United States assert its stake to Arctic riches and curb Russia's appetite for them.
Michael Byers, professor of International Law, University of British Columbia, says that the United States should ratify the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, as Russia did in 1997 and Canada did in 2003. It would then participate in the complex scientific and legal process whereby data on the geography and geology of the sea-bed is collected and submitted to a special UN Commission for assessment as to whether the area of seabed in question is part of the relevant country's extended continental shelf.
Commodore Sam Bateman, RAN (ret) wrote in the August issue of the Naval Institute Proceedings
that amplified the article in the July issue by George Galdorisi and Scott Truver ("Treaty at a Crossroads"). He was able to drawn on his experience as a naval officer who has lectured on Law of the Sea in Asia as well as in Australia. Several of his points deserve highlights because they are points that US naval officers can't talk about in public.
I regularly lecture on the Law of the Sea both in Australia and Asia. When I refer to the U.S. Navy's Freedom of Navigation (FON) Program, there are always questions about the right of the United States to enforce navigational freedom when it is not a party to UNCLOS. The argument that these freedoms are available under customary international law is becoming weaker, as customary international law evolves and some states act unilaterally to chip away at the balance of interests set out in UNCLOS. Excessive use of territorial sea straight baselines and "thickening jurisdiction" by coastal states in their exclusive economic zones are key examples of where customary international law may be evolving in a way contrary to U.S. Interests.
The FON by itself is no longer an effective means of dealing with these excessive claims. The United States should be prepared to take the offending countries to international dispute settlement, but it is unable to do so while it is not a party to UNCLOS. Quite simply, the United States could do much more to counter excessive maritime jurisdiction from within the Convention rather than by remaining outside it. Sitting in a corner and crying foul is not an effective approach.
While the United States remains outside, the rest of the world is establishing rules and principles for managing the 70 percent of the world's surface covered by water. One of the strongest points for US ratification is that this would allow the United States to participate in the international dispute mechanisms established under UNCLOS: the International Seabed Authority, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, and the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. These bodies are open for business and doing their work regardless of U.S. non-involvement.
The full text of Commodore Bateman's letter is to be found on pages 6 and 7 of the August issue of the Proceedings
<img align="right" alt="Chukchi Plateau north of Alaska" border="0" height="367" width="338" vspace="5" hspace="5"src="http://www.oceanlaw.org/downloads/chukchi_plateau.jpg" />
The Russian research expedition to survey the Arctic seabed, highlighted by the placing of the Russian flag on the floor of the ocean at the North Pole, has gained much attention - more because it was billed as Russia laying claim to the north pole than for the extraordinary nature of the extended marine science operations under the ice cap.
Actually, this expedition is part of the Russian effort to obtain international recognition of their claim to portions of the Arctic ocean floor in the only way possible: by conducting research that may prove that part of the ocean floor is a submerged extension of the Asian continent and submitting it to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, an international commission of experts in marine geology established by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. If the Commission agrees with the Russian claim, then it will be binding on all 155 parties to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. And even though the US has yet to ratify the Convention, the recognition of the claim by every industrialized country other than the US and by most of the developing world will make the resources of the claimed portion under the sovereign authority of Russia. If the Commission does not agree that the data supports the claim, then Russia will have to try again to obtain the Commission's approval, either with better data or a different claim.
In all the hoopla about the Russian expedition, only a little attention has been paid to America's own potential claim to the Arctic Floor. In 1980, Ambassador Elliot Richardson spoke to the Conference on the Law of the Sea to declare that it was the understanding of the United States that the terms of the Convention would allow the United States to claim the sub-sea territory known as the Chukchi Plateau. This area is located more than 600 miles north of Alaska and may be rich in oil and gas resources (though that won't be known until exploration activities are undertaken in the area).
Richardson's statement still holds true - the United States can claim the Chukchi Plateau as well as other portions of the Alaskan continental shelf beyond the 200 nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone and even the 350 NM limit to most claims over the continental shelf. But making a unilateral claim does not achieve what Russia is seeking - international recognition of sovereign authority over the seabed resources in the area of its claim.
The US is limited by its failure to join the Law of the Sea Convention: without being a party, its claim cannot be reviewed by the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, and without the Commission's approval, a US claim will not be recognized by others. One can ask, "does that matter?" In fact, it matters a great deal. The oil industry is a multinational one, with projects and investments around the world and the same is true for the international banks that help finance oil and gas development. Offshore development in deep, ice-frequented water requires huge investment and is fraught with technical risks. Businesses with operations in countries that recognize the LOS Convention (notably Russia) are not likely to be willing to bear the legal, economic and political risks the may result from the lack of international recognition of US authority over the resources of the Chukchi Plateau. They may be even less willing to risk their relationships with the host countries of their other operations and opportunities.
Adm. Mike Mullen submitted answers to questions regarding the Law of the Sea Convention as part of his confirmation hearing on July 31st, 2007. The questions and answers begin below.
<div align=center>United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea</b<div align=left>
In May of this year, President Bush issued a statement urging the Senate to
act favorably on U.S. accession to the Law of the Sea Convention.
Do you support U. S. accession to the United Nations Convention on the Law of
Yes, I support United States' accession to the Law of the Sea Convention, and
I believe that joining the Convention will strengthen our military's ability to
How would you answer the critics of the Convention who assert that accession
is not in the national security interests of the United States?
I believe that accession to the Law of the Sea Convention is in national
security interest of our nation. The basic tenets of the Law of the Sea
Convention are clear and the United States Armed Forces reap many benefits from
its provisions. From the right of unimpeded transit passage through straits used
for international navigation, to reaffirming the sovereign immunity of our
warships, providing a framework for countering excessive claims of other states,
and preserving the right to conduct military activities in exclusive economic
zones, the Convention provides the stable and predictable legal regime we need
to conduct our operations today and in the future.
The ability of United States military forces to operate freely on, over and
above the vast military maneuver space of the oceans is critical to our national
security interests, the military in general, and the Navy in particular. Your
Navy's -- and your military's -- ability to operate freely across the vast
domain of the world's oceans in peace and in war make possible the unfettered
projection of American influence and power. The military basis far support for
the Law of the Sea Convention is broad because it codifies fundamental benefits
important to our operating forces as they train and fight.
- It codifies essential navigational freedoms through key international
straits and archipelagoes, in the exclusive economic zone, and on the high seas;
- It supports the operational maneuver space for combat and other operations
of our warships and aircraft; and
- It enhances our own maritime interests in our territorial sea, contiguous
zone, and exclusive economic zone.
These provisions and others are important, and it is preferable for the
United States to be a party to the Convention that codifies the freedoms of
navigation and over flight needed to support United States military operations.
Likewise, it is beneficial to have a seat at the table to shape future
developments of the Law of the Sea Convention. Amendments made to the Convention
in the 1990's satisfied many of the concerns that opponents have expressed.
Since 1983, the United States Navy has conducted its activities in accordance
with President Reagan's Statement on United States Oceans Policy, operating
consistent with the Convention's provisions on navigational freedoms. If the
United States becomes a party to the Law of the Sea Convention, we would
continue to operate as we have since 1983, and would be recognized for our
leadership role in law of the sea matters. Joining the Law of the Sea Convention
will have no adverse effect on the President's Proliferation Security Initiative
(PSI) or on United States intelligence gathering activities. Rather, joining the
Convention is another important step in prosecuting and ultimately prevailing in
the Global War on Terrorism.
July 30, 2007
Opportunity On The Oceans
America Wins With the Law of the Sea Treaty
By Lawrence S. Eagleburger and John Norton Moore
Foreign policy concerns, as the Israeli-Palestinian dispute shows, are like the Energizer bunny; they generally go on and on. When we have an opportunity for a decisive foreign policy win, it should not be missed. One such opportunity has arisen with the Law of the Sea Convention, and in contrast to what Jack Goldsmith and Jeremy Rabkin have argued on this page [" A Treaty the Senate Should Sink," op-ed, July 2], the convention should be approved.
The convention is strongly supported by our military leaders and aids our national security in crucial ways. It provides legal certainty for U.S. naval vessels navigating the world's oceans, the largest maneuver space in the world. It assists the Coast Guard and facilitates crucial oil and gas development on our offshore continental margin, reducing the need for Middle Eastern oil. Indeed, in its 200-mile economic zone, it extends U.S. resource control into the oceans in an area greater than the land area of the nation, giving the United States the largest economic zone in the world.
The United States would hold the only permanent seat on the Counsel of the Seabed Authority. This new functional entity permits U.S. firms to develop critically needed deposits of copper, nickel, cobalt and manganese from ocean-floor sites. But the delay in U.S. adherence to the convention has already meant the loss of one of four original U.S. mine sites, and the other three are at risk. Meanwhile, China, Russia, India, Japan and others have moved to obtain exploration licenses to their deep-seabed sites.
Not surprisingly, the Navy; the Coast Guard; and our fishing, shipping, undersea cable, mining, and oil and gas industries all support ratification, as do environmentalists. The congressionally established Ocean Policy Commission voted unanimously for U.S. accession to the convention as its first official act. There are also important foreign policy reasons to adhere, as Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte and Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England wrote in an op-ed in June.
In sharp contrast to the Kyoto treaty, the United States led the world in negotiating the Law of the Sea Convention and achieved a historic negotiating success -- a success that probably could not be replicated today. Moreover, when President Ronald Reagan subsequently determined that Part XI of the convention, on seabed mining, required major revision, the world expressly met his conditions before the convention went into effect.
Today the convention is in force for 154 nations, including all the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council but the United States. Failure to adhere diminishes the voice of the United States in protecting our interests worldwide; it excludes America from the new functional organizations created by the convention, such as the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf; and it sends a signal of American isolationism.
Why then has the convention, which was successfully renegotiated in 1994, not yet received a vote in the Senate? Sadly, ideologically driven opponents have purveyed a web of distortions. They assert that the convention would give our sovereignty away, but the reality would be enhanced protection of our ships on the seas and the greatest expansion of resource jurisdiction in U.S. history, greater in area than that of the Louisiana Purchase and the acquisition of Alaska combined. They assert that the International Seabed Authority, which after a quarter-century of operation has 35 employees and a budget of less than $12 million, is both a U.N. agency (it's not) and a stalking horse for world government. The agency also has no power to tax Americans.
Opponents assert that Ronald Reagan deep-sixed the convention, when instead he set requirements for renegotiation of Part XI, which were successfully achieved, and he directed that we follow the remainder of the convention, which has been U.S. oceans policy now through four presidencies. They assert that the convention harms President Bush's Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), when the Joint Chiefs of Staff state flatly that the convention "strengthens the coalition" and "supports" PSI.
Foreign policy issues deserve debate, but not shameful distortions. The Senate must not cede its role to uninformed voices, especially when our president and national security leaders are on record as to what is in our country's interest and when the rest of the world has specifically accommodated America's request for renegotiation. If the Senate misses this opportunity, our allies and adversaries alike will note that U.S. foreign policy has been diminished by an ideological extreme. The Senate should follow the president's leadership on this important issue.
Lawrence S. Eagleburger was secretary of state under President George H.W. Bush. John Norton Moore, director of the Center for Oceans Law & Policy at the University of Virginia, was U.S. ambassador for the Law of the Sea Convention under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford and was a Reagan appointee to the National Advisory Committee on Oceans and Atmosphere.
San Diego Union Tribune
By George V. Galdorisi and Scott C. Truver July 19, 2007
In the coming weeks and months, the U.S. Senate will have the opportunity to provide its "advice and consent" on a treaty of vital importance to America.
The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, with 153 parties, represents the outcome of the most comprehensive international negotiation ever undertaken - a negotiating process that the United States helped spearhead beginning in the mid-1960s. But it also represents a failure of Washington to take the high ground on something that clearly is in our collective interests: the good order and security of the oceans and seas worldwide.
Deep Seabed Mining, once the principal focus of opposition to the LOS Convention, has become a minor issue in the debate over US ratification of the LOS Convention. In terms of long-term interests, however, this issue shouldn't be forgotten.
Once the rest of the industrialized countries joined the Convention, and especially after Germany joined France, Russia, China, Korea and India in obtaining exclusive rights to minesites on the deep ocean floor from the International Seabed Authority, it is clear that seabed mining will only occur under the terms of the LOS Convention, and if the US does not join the Convention, our companies will not share in the benefits of exploitation.
In May of 2007, the respected science magazine "Nature" reported on the current state of deep ocean mining with an article about the exploration and exploitation of polymmetallic sulfide deposits along the Pacific rim. While these deposits are located within the EEZ of Pacific states, the activities are the testing ground for the technologies that will eventually minig the nickel, cobalt and coper of the deep ocean floor.
Nature 447, 246-247 (17 May 2007) | doi:10.1038/447246a; Published online 16 May 2007
"Long dismissed as too expensive or impractical, mining the sea floor for metals is gaining a new foothold. Mark Schrope reports on two companies hoping to take the plunge."
"When the riches of the land run out, look to those of the sea. That's how many have thought for years, although mining the deep sea for metals always seemed a prospect of the distant future. Now, two companies are making a bid to turn dreams into profits by mining massive deposits of copper, zinc, gold and silver on the sea bed."
Click on the "Read full article" link below to view the entire article in a PDF file from the Nature website.
The Chicago Tribune endorsed US ratification of the LOS Convention in their July 14, 2007 issue. The article focused strongly on the growing issue of access to the resources of the seabed of the Arctic Ocean and new Russian claims that extend farther from shore than any other claims.
The Tribune editorial makes the following conclusions regarding the Convention"
"There is strong military justification for this treaty, and there is strong economic justification. Case in point: As the polar ice recedes, resources beneath it become available for drilling. Russia has rushed in, and more nations will follow. By leaving the treaty unratified, the U.S. denies itself the ability to contest Russia's claims in the Arctic Ocean."
"The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has recommended the treaty. Chairman Joseph Biden (D-Del.) asked President Bush to publicly support the treaty, and the president did so in May. The Senate has no reason to fear this treaty. It has every reason to ratify it."
Click on the "Read full article" link below to view the full text of the Editorial.