For Immediate Release
May 15th, 2007
STEVENS JOINS PRESIDENT IN URGING SENATE TO RATIFY LAW OF THE SEA TREATY
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), Vice Chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, today joined President George W. Bush in urging the United States Senate to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Commonly known as the Law of the Sea Treaty, this accord would regulate and govern activities that occur on or within the world’s oceans.
“The United States is the world’s largest maritime power, and our country also has one of the longest coastlines in the world,” said Senator Stevens. “As a result, we have an enormous interest in the protection of the oceans and their resources. I am pleased to join President Bush in this effort and look forward to working with my colleagues in the Senate on this important matter.”
Senator Stevens noted that in 1969, Senator Warren Magnuson (D-Wash.) asked him to monitor the Law of the Sea negotiations taking place around the world. This experience led him to work on the original Magnuson-Stevens Act, which extended coastal-state jurisdiction to 200 miles off shore. Stevens said that he supports the Law of the Sea Treaty because it would provide the United States with important international authorities to resolve jurisdictional matters over control of the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS).
“The Law of the Sea Treaty would allow member nations to lay claim to all bottom resources on their continental shelves beyond 200 miles,” Senator Stevens said. “Two-thirds of our nation’s Outer Continental Shelf is located off Alaska, and if we ratify this accord, the United States could lay claim to a substantial area north and east of the Bering Strait.”
<div align=center>STATEMENT BY ADM. THAD ALLEN, COMMANDANT OF THE COAST GUARD, ON THE CONVENTION ON THE LAW OF THE SEA
WASHINGTON – Adm. Thad Allen, commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, issued the following statement today reiterating long-standing Coast Guard support for joining the Convention on the Law of the Sea.
“Becoming a party to the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea would greatly enhance our global position in maritime affairs. Because of our maritime security and law enforcement missions, the Coast Guard has long been a proponent of achieving a comprehensive and stable regime with respect to traditional uses of the oceans. The convention greatly enhances our ability to protect the American public as well as our efforts to protect and manage fishery resources and to protect the marine environment. From the Coast Guard’s perspective, we can best maintain a public order of the oceans through a universally accepted law of the sea treaty that preserves and promotes critical U.S. national interests.
“The convention strikes the appropriate balance between the interests of countries in controlling activities off their coasts with the interests of all countries in protecting freedom of navigation. The convention provides the framework under which the Coast Guard is able to interdict illicit drug traffickers and illegal immigrants far beyond our own waters. The convention also gives the coastal state the right to protect its marine environment, manage its fisheries and off-shore oil and gas resources within the 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone, and secure sovereign rights over resources of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles.
“U.S. military forces, including Coast Guard units, already rely heavily on the freedom of navigation principles codified in the convention. These principles allow the use of the world’s oceans to meet changing national security requirements, including those necessary to fight the global war on terrorism. Becoming a party to the convention will enhance our ability to carry out the many maritime missions of the Coast Guard, refute excessive maritime claims, and participate in interpreting and applying the convention to day-to-day realities.”
18 May 2007
Law of Sea Convention Serves U.S. Interests, Bush Says
Establishes a legal order for oceans, promotes international communication
By Cheryl Pellerin
USINFO Staff Writer
Washington -- President Bush has urged the Senate to approve U.S. participation in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea "to advance U.S. interests in the world's oceans."
To date, 153 parties have signed on to the convention, which entered into force in 1994. The convention aims to promote international communication, foster peaceful use and conservation of ocean resources and preserve the marine environment.
"Joining [the convention] will serve the national security interests of the United States," President Bush said in a May 15 statement, and "promote U.S. interests in the environmental health of the oceans and ... give the United States a seat at the table when the rights that are vital to our interests are debated and interpreted."
The comprehensive document covers nearly every aspect of the use of the ocean and its seabed, said Margaret Hayes, director of the State Department Office of Oceans Affairs in the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs.
"It sets out jurisdictional areas, limits on them and rules about their use -- for example, that a territorial sea can't be more than 12 miles [19.3 kilometers] from a country's shores," Hayes said in a May 17 USINFO interview. "And there are provisions on high-seas freedoms that are necessary to every nation's security. The convention also allows a country to claim a 200-mile [322-kilometer] exclusive economic zone where the coastal state can exercise sovereign rights over resources found there."
The treaty also addresses passage of ships, international navigation, the rights of archipelagic states, the continental shelf, marine life conservation and management, resource development, scientific research, a binding procedure for dispute settlement and more.
A CONSTITUTION FOR THE OCEANS
The law of the sea was a doctrine developed in the 17th century to limit coastal state rights and jurisdiction over the oceans to a narrow belt of sea surrounding a nation's coastline.
The rest of the sea was free to all until the mid-20th century forward, when a range of issues -- fishing, pollution, military use, mineral rights -- made treaties necessary to restore order and promote better management of ocean resources.
By 1958, the first U.N. Conference on the Law of the Sea in Geneva had produced four treaties that addressed the territorial sea, the continental shelf, the high seas, and fishing and conserving living resources on the high seas. There was also an optional protocol that addressed the compulsory settlement of disputes.
The United States signed all but the resolution-dispute treaty, Hayes said, but continued throughout the 1970s and early 1980s to seek a more comprehensive agreement -- what Tommy Koh of Singapore, president of the Third U.N. Conference on the Law of the Sea, called in 1967 "a constitution for the oceans."
The convention was completed in 1982. The United States accepted all the provisions except Part XI, which addressed deep-sea mining for minerals and established the International Seabed Authority to authorize and regulate seabed exploration and mining.
The United States objected to the provisions because it and others with major economic interests at stake did not have adequate influence over future decisions, Hayes said. Then-President Ronald Reagan declined to sign the convention but in 1983 issued an Oceans Policy Statement that said the United States accepted, and would act in accordance with, all the provisions except those in Part XI.
By 1994, when the convention came into force, Hayes said, participating nations had made changes to Part XI that made the provisions acceptable to the United States and other countries, but the U.S. Senate has not yet approved the convention.
In response to Bush's statement, Hayes said the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is expected to schedule hearings on the convention over the next few months, and the administration hopes the full Senate will act on the convention as a priority this year.
More information about the Law of the Sea is available on the U.N. Web site.
(USINFO is produced by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
Admiral Watkins and Leon Panetta, co-chairs of the Joint Ocean Commissions Initiative, have written to President Bush with an endorsement of his support for Senate approval of the Law of the Sea Convention.
Read the full letter <a href="http://www.oceanlaw.org/downloads/JOCI051707.pdf" target=_blank>here.
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release May 15, 2007
Statement by the President
I am acting to advance U.S. interests in the world’s oceans in two important ways.
First, I urge the Senate to act favorably on U.S. accession to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea during this session of Congress. Joining will serve the national security interests of the United States, including the 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. Accession will promote U.S. interests in the environmental health of the oceans. 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.
Second, I have instructed the U.S. delegation to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to submit a proposal for international measures that would enhance protection of the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, the area including the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.
Last June, I issued a proclamation establishing the Monument, a 1,200-mile stretch of coral islands, seamounts, banks, and shoals that are home to some 7,000 marine species. The United States will propose that the IMO designate the entire area as a Particularly Sensitive Sea Area (PSSA) –- similar to areas such as the Florida Keys, the Great Barrier Reef, and the Galapagos Archipelago –- which will alert mariners to exercise caution in the ecologically important, sensitive, and hazardous area they are entering. This proposal, like the Convention on the Law of the Sea, will help protect the maritime environment while preserving the navigational freedoms essential to the security and economy of every nation.
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<div align=center>STATEMENT BY DICK LUGAR ON THE LAW OF THE SEA TREATY
May 15, 2007
<div align=center>An Overdue Step to Greater Security
By Richard G. Lugar
The Senate this year has an opportunity to plug a large hole in our national security structure by approving the Law of the Sea treaty. I have urged President Bush and my colleagues in the Senate to act soon before election year politics or a crowded Senate schedule once again scuttles the chances for this vital international agreement, which has for years been stalled in unnecessary controversy.
The treaty, formally known as the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, was conceived during the Cold War as a way to protect vital U.S. national security, maritime and environmental interests from encroachment by the Soviet Union and by assertive developing countries. The lengthy and complex negotiations--involving more than 140 nations--were a triumph of American diplomacy.
Our negotiators won guarantees that U.S. warships and merchant vessels can pass freely off any coast, through all the oceans’ strategic chokepoints and even through the sea lanes of foreign archipelagos, like Indonesia and The Philippines. These guarantees, which in most cases include over-flight rights as well, are vital to our national defense. They ensure our Navy ships and submarines can navigate freely, that our cargo vessels and tankers have access to all the world’s sea lanes, and that we can control the vast riches up to 200 miles off our shores, including the huge schools of fish in the ocean and the oil and gas that lie beneath it.
We scored big wins in other areas, too: our oil and fishing industries got important rights and protections, and the treaty’s anti-pollution and natural resource provisions are so thorough that the Law of the Sea has been called “the strongest comprehensive environmental treaty now in existence.”
As the head of the Ocean Conservancy at the time, Roger Rufe, told a 2003 Senate hearing, the treaty requires all parties “to protect and preserve the marine environment, and to conserve marine living species.”
Yet even though the United States obeys the treaty and gets many benefits from it, we’ve been so far shut out of its policy-making bodies and, in a larger sense, we’ve forfeited our unchallenged world leadership in oceans policy. That’s why ratification has the support of the Pentagon and the Navy, as well as President Bush. Both the energy industry and environmentalists are enthusiastic supporters.
However, ideological posturing and flat-out misrepresentations by a handful of amateur admirals have sought to cast a shadow over the treaty by suggesting that we are turning over our sovereignty to the United Nations. Their criticisms simply don’t hold water.
Ratifying the treaty will do nothing to change the status quo with respect to U.S. intelligence and submarine activities in the territorial seas of other countries: we’ll continue to operate under the same rules we’ve relied on for more than 40 years. Nor will we have to submit disputes over traditional uses of the sea to a United Nations tribunal. Under treaty terms we fought for, any such dispute involving the United States will be sent to arbitration before judges that we help pick.
Equally important, our negotiators made sure that under the treaty our military activities at sea have special protection and are not subject to challenge by other countries in court. To be doubly certain, the Bush administration wisely took advantage of the Treaty’s rules for making clarifying declarations and has specified explicitly that we alone define what constitute “military activities” not subject to review.
The most baffling charge is that somehow we’ll be required to give away sensitive military technology. The convention mandates no such thing. This criticism hasn’t been valid since the Reagan administration, when the treaty was first completed. President Reagan refused to sign it because of technology transfer provisions and other problems in the section on deep-seabed mining. Later, a hard-fought renegotiation led to changes that met all of President Reagan’s demands. We don’t have to give away any technology to anybody.
Failure to move now could directly hurt American interests. Russia has, under terms of the treaty, laid claim to stretches of the Arctic Ocean, hoping to lock up potential oil and gas reserves which could become more accessible as climate change shrinks the polar ice cap. Unless the United States ratifies the treaty, Moscow will be able to press its claims without an American at the table.
Moreover, the treaty, in effect since 1994, is now open for amendment. With America on the outside looking in, other countries could try to undo our hard-won gains, and we wouldn’t have a vote. We would also be left out of the decisions further developing regional and global rules on the ocean environment.
But there is a larger issue as well. We’ve been a free rider on this treaty for too long. At a time when the United States is being criticized by friends and foes alike as either a Lone Ranger or worse, an arrogant bully, we can demonstrate that we believe international cooperation, done right, can serve America’s interests. By embracing a treaty that we championed and that improves our national security, we can help counter the prejudices that America is an unreliable partner or a threat to world order.
In 2004, the Treaty stalled on the Senate floor even after the Foreign Relations Committee voted to approve it. This year, the new Senate leadership should work with President Bush to take an overdue step toward stronger national security by ratifying this treaty.
The LOS Convention establishes a group of sometimes-overlapping regions and regimes. Few of the charts of these regimes have addressed the regime for sub-sea cables and pipelines. The following chart is courtesy of Douglas Burnett. It notes the legal sources, both domestic and international, for the different zones and activities within them.
Click on the image to view it as a PDF file.
<a href="http://www.oceanlaw.org/charts/OceanLimits.pdf" target=_blank>
This information originally appeared in the 1996 DOD-JCS publication "National Security and the Convention on the Law of the Sea" published in January, 1006. It is still current and should not be relegated to a dusty stack of old reports:
The Law of the Sea Convention will:
- Preserve freedoms of navigation and overflight on the high seas.
- Maintain these high seas freedoms in the 200 NM Exclusive Economic Zone of coastal states [e.g. Vietnam].
- Guarantee freedom of navigation and overflight through international straits [most crucial are Gibralter, Hormuz, and Malacca].
- Establish the regime of archipelagic sea lands passage [for transit through strategically located archipelagoes, such as Indonesia and the Philippines].
- Guarantee passage through foreign territorial seas along with a clear delineation of coastal State regulatory authority.
- Limit the width of the territorial sea to twelve nautical miles.
- Establish more objective rules for drawing baselines for measuring maritime zones [restrains coastal States from extending their jurisdictional reach further seaward].
- Preserve the sovereign immune status of our warships and other public vessels and aircraft.
- Maintain the careful balance between coastal State jurisdiction over maritime pollution and the international community's navigational freedoms.
- Preserve the freedom to conduct military surveys seaward of foreign territorial seas [without the requirement to obtain the coastal State's permission].