The Law of the Sea Treaty was approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on February 25, 2004 by a vote of 19 to 0. In October of 2007 it was approved again by a vote of 17 to 4. During the 2008 campaign, both Barack Obama and John McCain endorsed the LOS Treaty. The Treaty is now waiting for approval by the full Senate. Various statements of support appear below:
► President George W. Bush “There is an urgent need for Senate approval of the Law of the Sea Treaty.”
► Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee: “Joining the (LOS) convention will advance the interests of the United States military. The United States, as the world’s leading maritime power, will gain economic and resource benefits from the convention. The convention will not inhibit the United States nor its partners from successfully pursuing the Proliferation Security Initiative. And the United Nations has no decision-making role under the convention in regulating uses of the oceans by any state party to the convention.”
► General Richard B. Myers USAF, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff: The LOS Treaty is a “top national-security priority. It supports efforts in the War on Terrorism by providing much-needed stability and operational maneuver space, codifying essential navigational and over-flight freedoms.”
► Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN), Chairman, Foreign Relations Committee: “The national security and economic security interests of the United States are enhanced by this Treaty. At the same time, it increases our standard of living and expands our sovereignty rights.”
► Admiral Vern Clark USN, Chief of Naval Operations, testimony before the Foreign Relations Committee: “I just want to be on record as saying that we would never recommend a treaty that would require us to get a permission slip from anyone to conduct operations or that would restrict our intelligence activities around the world because we know that those kind of freedoms are essential to our mission. . . .
“It first defines and then preserves our navigational freedoms. It also provides the operational maneuver space that I need for my Navy to conduct peaceful operations at sea and combat operations. I also believe that it’s very important, because it puts the United States of America where it should be, and that is in a position of leadership to protect these vital freedoms and to shape the future direction of the treaty.”
► Admiral Michael Mullen USN, the then Vice Chief of Naval Operations, told a House Armed Services Committee in 2004: “We must be able to take maximum advantage of the established and widely accepted navigational rights the Law of the Sea Convention codifies to get us to the fight rapidly.” (Admiral Mullen has been nominated by President Bush to serve as the next Chief of Naval Operations).
► Dr. John Norton Moore, Director, Center for National Security Law, the University of Virginia, and former Chairman, National Security Law Task Force, American Bar Association, “There is not a single sovereign right of the United States that is conceded in this treaty. . . . This is one of the greatest increases in sovereign rights of the United States since the Louisiana Purchase or the acquisition of Alaska. . . . This is clearly a case where a treaty is strongly in the interests of the United States. I have never before seen a treaty so favorable to America.”
► William Howard Taft IV, General Counsel, Department of State and former U.S. Ambassador to NATO: “The Bush Administration recommends that the Senate give its advice and consent to accession to the Convention and ratification of the Agreement because the treaty represents the highest priority of U.S. international oceans policy.”
► Admiral Jay L. Johnson USN (Ret), former Chief of Naval Operations, “I believe we need to join the Law of the Sea Convention, so that our people know when they’re operating in the defense of this nation, far from the shores, that they have the backing and they have the authority of widely recognized and accepted law to look to, rather than depending only upon the threat or the use of force or customary international law that can be too easily changed.”
► Admiral James Watkins USN, former Chief of Naval Operations (1982-1986) and former Secretary of Energy (1989-1993), who is now serving as Chairman of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy. His panel devoted three years of work to ocean policy and the LOS Treaty. They produced an 800 page report strongly recommending the Treaties ratification.
Watkins calls the LOS Treaty “the foundation of public order of the oceans. . . . There are many important decisions being made right now within the framework of the (LOS) convention. Until we are a party to the convention, we cannot participate in the many bodies established under the convention that are making decisions critical to our interests.”
The Admiral responded to Treaty critics by saying: “The claim is that we would lose our sovereignty. Bananas! That’s nonsense! So, what is it? What is driving an ideology that has no substance to it?” Watkins has also spoken to many lawmakers about the Treaty, “and if we can get it to the floor of the Senate it will pass overwhelmingly.”
► Sheila M. McNeill, President, Navy League: “The LOS Convention codifies access and transit rights for our ships and enhances the nation’s prosecution of the global war on terrorism. Our nation has much to gain and nothing to lose by becoming a party to the Convention. As of November 2004, the Convention is open for amendment. As a party to the Convention, the United States would have a major role in shaping changes to come.”
► John Turner, Assistant Secretary of State for Ocean Affairs, testimony before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, March 23, 2004: “I appear before you today with the full support of President Bush, Vice President Cheney, and Secretary of State Powell. They are supporting this treaty because it is in the best interests of the United States. . . . We feel it embraces our sovereignty.”
► Bernard Oxman, University of Miami Law School, Vice-Chairman of the U.S. Delegation to the Third U.N. Conference on the Law of the Sea: “The treaty neither grants taxing authority nor erodes sovereignty, but actually enshrines the right of the Navy to go where it needs to go to advance U.S. interests. This is not a question of interpretation. I don’t think the critics are familiar with the text. They’re against it no matter what the text might say.”
► Admiral Joseph Pruether USN (Ret), former Commander-in-Chief, Pacific and U.S. Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China: “Our security is dependent upon the unchallenged global mobility of our armed forces to respond to any threat. The Treaty is central to fulfilling the President’s pledge to fight terrorists wherever they are by helping ‘secure our global and economic lines of communication.’ To do that, we have to get there, and we have to get there without France, or Spain or Morocco’s say-so. This convention says we have a right to get there even if they don’t like it.”
► Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE), Chairman, International Economic Policy Subcommittee of the Foreign Relations Committee: Ratification of the LOS Treaty is “the right thing to do. Every president since it was signed, Republican and Democrat, has supported it. Secretary Rumsfeld, every senior Navy officer, every living chief of naval operations. I don’t know what more credibility you want than having our military leaders support it.”
► John P. Craven, past Director, Law of the Sea Institute: “The Law of the Sea Treaty is one of the most comprehensive treaties ever negotiated and it has been modified to comply with all of the security and economic demands of the United States. Our manifest inability to enforce its provisions through our customary system of law, with the Coast Guard and internal legislation such as the Magnuson Act, demonstrates our enforcement mechanisms require international cooperation. This cooperation can be assured only if we ratify the Treaty.”
► Mark Helmke, Republican Staff, Senate Foreign Relations Committee: “Any rational Beltway official will tell you that ratification of the Treaty is critical to the strength of our Navy, our national security, our economy, and the global environment. The failure to ratify the Treaty is signaling to the world that the United States flouts collective security and multilateralism. Basically, we have a bunch of fringe, armchair, isolationist ideologues who are holding up this Treaty. . . . Their views get picked up by all the conservative radio talk-show hosts who fan the flames and dish out scare tactics by claiming the U.N. is going to take over every little fishing pond in the world. . . .
“The groups that raise this sovereignty red herring are the same people who would be very much opposed to what the United States is doing in Afghanistan and Iraq – if a Democratic president was in office. . . . Russia right now is trying to lay claim to deep seabed mining areas beneath melting Arctic ice, which are newly accessible to drilling thanks to global warming. The ultimate irony is that the extreme right-wingers have spent decades being vehemently anti-Soviet, and now they’re letting Russia take over Santa Claus land.”
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