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16 May 2017
Senate Ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea is Critical to US Security, Energy, Trade, and Economic Interests

Given recent troubling events in international waters and substantial loses of valuable US mineral and offshore energy resource rights, the United Nations Association of the National Capital Area urges Senate Ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea to meet compelling national security and economic interests
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On May 9, 2017, The International Law Committee of the United Nations Association of the National Capital Area, in partnership with the American Society of International Law and the International Law Section of the American Bar Association, held a symposium of leading experts on the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). The unanimous conclusion of these experts is that Senate ratification of UNCLOS is critical to US national security, energy, trade and job creation interests and objectives.

The experts included Ambassador to UNCLOS John Norton Moore (Ret.), Walter L. Brown Professor of Law at the University of Virginia, Douglas R Burnett, International Law Advisor to the International Cable Protection Committee, Myron Norquist, leading scholar on UNCLOS, and Ruth Wedgewood, Edward Burling Professor of International Diplomacy at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. UNA-NCA expresses appreciation to Bob Craft, Chair of the International Law Committee  and the entire committee, including Wes Rist of the ASIL and Renee Dopplick of the ABA, for organizing this event.

167 countries and the European Union have ratified UNCLOS, leaving the US, which has not done so, at a serious strategic disadvantage.

 
As set forth by Ambassador Moore (Ret.), the benefits to the US of ratification are substantial and include:
 
·         A fourfold extension of US territorial waters from 3 nautical miles to 12 nautical miles.
·         Doubling of the contiguous zone from 12 to 24 nautical miles.
·         Eightfold Extension of US rights to archeological and historical objects found at sea to 200 nautical miles.
·         Massive extension of oil, gas, fishing rights, and other activities for economic exploitation to 200 nautical miles off our coast and Pacific island possessions.
·         Expansion of oil and gas rights from the narrow geologic continental shelf to 200 miles and beyond to approximately the entire geological continental margin, which extends 600
          miles off the Alaska coast.
·         Establishing innocent passage transit rights through territorial waters.
·         Establishing a new regime of strait transit rights and overflights that meet US defense requirements for naval aircraft and submarines.
·         Establishing US rights to strategic minerals, including copper, nickel, manganese, cobalt and rare earth minerals, valued at $1 trillion.
·         Granting the US the only permanent seat on the International Seabed Authority, which determines property rights beyond the jurisdiction of any nation.
·         Protecting submarine transoceanic cables essential to telecommunications and the internet.
·         Providing for dispute settlements between nations that enforce Convention provisions and protect US vessels from seizure or harassment by foreign entities.
 
Failure of the US to ratify UNCLOS has been very costly to the United States. For example:
 
·         The US has lost a Deep Sea Mining Bed site, USA-1, the size of Rhode Island, valued at $250 billion to Belgium.
·         The US has lost a Deep Sea Mining Bed site, USA-2, the size of Rhode Island, valued at $250 billion to the UK.
·         The US risks losing the two additional seabed mining sites, USA-3 and USA-4,  valued at $500 million.
·         If  foreign countries threaten US naval ships, such as Iran in the Persian Gulf, China in the South China  Sea, or North Korea in the Sea of Japan, the US cannot effectively 
          enforce the UNCLOS-protected rights to navigational freedom.
·         Jeopardizes US rights to oil, natural gas and minerals in the Artic shelf.
·         Removes US ability to shape the rules for deep seabed mining.
·         Removes US ability to shape the rules for shaping the outer continental margin.
·         Risks international regulation of the US outer continental margin,  an area larger than Jefferson’s  Louisiana purchase.
·         Eliminates ability to block undesirable amendments.
·         Eliminates ability to shape ocean law.
·         Undermines US negotiating credibility after having achieved all US objectives in negotiating UNCLOS.

                     
Although President Trump has not yet declared a position, since the successful negotiation of UNCLOS, all prior presidents,  all Secretaries of State, and national security leaders have supported ratification. The US Navy’s ability to operate in contested waters in accordance with international law would be greatly enhanced. Industry and environmental groups have joined together to support ratification. The only impediments have been a knee jerk ideological opposition to treaties by a minority of Senators and the Senate calendar itself that fails to allocate time for consideration of a complex treaty that serves the US interest in countless ways.

 
UNA-NCA strongly supports Senate ratification of the Convention on the Law of the Sea to advance and protect US national security and defense interests, support global preservation of the oceans heritage,  uphold the credibility of strong and successful US diplomacy,  accelerate energy resource development and independence, ensure valuable US mining rights, promote job growth, and protect fair and efficient trade, commerce, and communications.

 
Ambassador Donald T. Bliss (ret.)
President, United Nations Association of the National Captial Area
 

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