U.S. Navy team patrols Gulf of Aden for pirates
An upswing in piracy attacks off the coast of Somalia, the rise of new naval powers such as China and India and a rapidly melting polar ice cap that is opening the Arctic to international shipping and resource extraction are but a "few of the pressing issues that give mounting urgency for the United States to join the convention," says Council on Foreign Relations Fellow for Ocean Governance Scott Borgerson in a new council special report.
The 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea created the overarching governance framework for nearly three-quarters of the earth's surface and what lies above and beneath it. It has been signed and ratified by 156 countries and the European community but not the United States. The treaty has languished in the Senate without legislative action due to a filibuster threat from a small but vocal opposition who believe that the world's most powerful navy does not need to sign on to this international agreement. The CFR is urging a full Senate hearing on the treaty because, argues Borgerson, officially joining the convention will not only measurably benefit U.S. national security but is also in the country's economic and environmental interests as well.
The report asserts that joining the convention will allow the United States to extend U.S. sovereignty over as much as one million square kilometers of additional ocean, an area half the size of the Louisiana Purchase. Borgerson argues joining the treaty also advances other critical U.S. interests such as leading anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden, opening up deep seabed mining to American companies, championing environmental initiatives and securing U.S. navigation rights for U.S. naval and commercial ships in strategic waterways. Additionally, it extends the Proliferation Security Initiative, the basis to interdict weapons of mass destruction, to key Pacific allies.
The report examines the accession debate through a combination of historical, legal, and strategic analysis. It contends that arguments favoring acceding to the treaty far outweigh those opposed.