Defense, State Leaders Urge Senate to Ratify Law of the Sea Treaty

WASHINGTON, May 23, 2012 — In the strongest terms pos­si­ble, defense and diplo­mat­ic lead­ers urged the Sen­ate today to rat­i­fy the Law of the Sea Con­ven­tion.

Defense Sec­re­tary Leon E. Panet­ta along with Army Gen. Mar­tin E. Dempsey, the chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, joined Sec­re­tary of State Hillary Rod­ham Clin­ton in tes­ti­mo­ny before the Sen­ate For­eign Rela­tions Com­mit­tee. All three urged the com­mit­tee to approve the treaty. “I strong­ly believe that acces­sion to this treaty is absolute­ly essen­tial, not only to our eco­nom­ic inter­ests, our diplo­mat­ic inter­ests, but I’m here to say that it is extreme­ly impor­tant to our nation­al secu­ri­ty inter­ests as well,” Panet­ta told the Sen­ate pan­el. “I join a lot of the mil­i­tary voic­es of the past and present that have spo­ken so strong­ly in sup­port of this treaty.”

The treaty, which came into force in 1994, has been wait­ing for Sen­ate rat­i­fi­ca­tion ever since.

Panet­ta stressed that acced­ing to the treaty would help main­tain the Unit­ed States as a glob­al naval pow­er. “If we’re going to con­tin­ue to assert our role as a mar­itime pow­er, it’s essen­tial that we accede to this impor­tant con­ven­tion,” he told the pan­el.

“We believe that it is imper­a­tive to act now,” Clin­ton said. “No coun­try is bet­ter served by this con­ven­tion than the Unit­ed States. As the world’s fore­most mar­itime pow­er, we ben­e­fit from the convention’s favor­able free­dom of nav­i­ga­tion pro­vi­sions. As the coun­try with the world’s sec­ond-longest coast­line, we ben­e­fit from its pro­vi­sions on off­shore nat­ur­al resources.”

A total of 161 coun­tries have approved the treaty. “We’re the only indus­tri­al pow­er that has failed to do that,” Panet­ta said. “And as a result, we don’t have a seat at the table.”

Not hav­ing a seat means the U.S. is not rep­re­sent­ed and U.S. claims are not defend­ed. It means being unable to influ­ence nations who are at the table, Panet­ta said.

Rat­i­fy­ing the treaty, “would ensure that our rights are not whit­tled away by the exces­sive claims and erro­neous inter­pre­ta­tions of oth­ers,” Panet­ta said. “It would give us the pow­er and author­i­ty to sup­port and pro­mote the peace­ful res­o­lu­tion of dis­putes with­in a rules-based order.”

The treaty would also secure U.S. nav­i­ga­tion­al free­doms and glob­al access for mil­i­tary and com­mer­cial ships, air­craft and under­sea fiber-optic cables.

Panet­ta sug­gest­ed the new defense strat­e­gy almost demands acces­sion to the Law of the Sea Treaty. “We at the Defense Depart­ment have gone through an effort to devel­op a defense strat­e­gy for the future, a defense strat­e­gy not only for now, but into the future as well,” the sec­re­tary said. “And it empha­sizes the strate­gi­cal­ly vital arc that extends from the west­ern Pacif­ic and east­ern Asia into the Indi­an Ocean region and South Asia on to the Mid­dle East.”

By not rat­i­fy­ing the treaty, the Unit­ed States under­cuts its cred­i­bil­i­ty in that cru­cial arc. “We’re push­ing, for exam­ple, for a rules-based order in the region and the peace­ful res­o­lu­tion of mar­itime and ter­ri­to­r­i­al dis­putes in the South Chi­na Sea, in the Straits of Hor­muz and else­where,” Panet­ta said. “How can we argue that oth­er nations must abide by inter­na­tion­al rules when we haven’t joined the very treaty that cod­i­fies those rules?”

Dempsey ham­mered home this point, not­ing that join­ing the Law of the Sea Con­ven­tion would strength­en America’s abil­i­ty to apply sea pow­er. From his stand­point, the treaty cod­i­fies the nav­i­ga­tion­al rights and free­doms nec­es­sary to project and sus­tain U.S. mil­i­tary forces. These include the right of tran­sit through inter­na­tion­al straits, the right to exer­cise high seas free­doms in for­eign exclu­sive eco­nom­ic zones, and the right of inno­cent pas­sage through for­eign ter­ri­to­r­i­al seas.

“And, it rein­forces the sov­er­eign immu­ni­ty of our war­ships as they con­duct oper­a­tions,” Dempsey said.

Right now, the Unit­ed States exer­cis­es these rights by sail­ing into these waters or fly­ing over them. “This plays into the hands of for­eign states that seek to bend cus­tom­ary law to restrict move­ment on the oceans,” the chair­man said. “And, it puts our war­ships and air­craft ‘on point’ to con­stant­ly chal­lenge claims.”

The Unit­ed States will defend its inter­ests on the seas, the chair­man said.

“But, the force of arms does not have to be — and should not be — our only nation­al secu­ri­ty instru­ment,” he said. “Join­ing the con­ven­tion would pro­vide us anoth­er way to stave off con­flict with less risk of esca­la­tion.”

Source:
U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

Team GlobDef

Team GlobDef

Seit 2001 ist GlobalDefence.net im Internet unterwegs, um mit eigenen Analysen, interessanten Kooperationen und umfassenden Informationen für einen spannenden Überblick der Weltlage zu sorgen. GlobalDefenc.net war dabei die erste deutschsprachige Internetseite, die mit dem Schwerpunkt Sicherheitspolitik außerhalb von Hochschulen oder Instituten aufgetreten ist.

Alle Beiträge ansehen von Team GlobDef →