The United States should ratify theUnited Nations Convention on the Law of Sea(UNCLOS) in the wake of Manila’s victory over Beijing in The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) says one senior Democratic lawmaker. The United States—which acts as the guarantor of the liberal-institutional world order—is notably absent from the treaty—much to the chagrin of executive branch officials.
“I think this is also important to note today that there was one party notably absent during deliberations in this case: the United States. As the United States is one of only a few countries that has not yet ratified the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, our representatives were not allowed to participate in the adjudication process,” Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT), ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee’s (HASC) Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee said in an emailed statement. “Undoubtedly, U.S. interests were not served by the rejection of our request to observe these proceedings. This ruling clearly demonstrates why our nation must finally ratify the Law of the Sea treaty, and I continue to call on the Senate to heed the advice experts and military leaders by approving this treaty without delay.”
Earlier this year in March, Courtney introduced a bipartisan resolution—H. Res. 631—alongside Rep. Don Young (R-AK) calling on the U.S. Senate to finally ratify the UNCLOS treaty. Indeed, many senior Defense Department officials have been privately pleading with lawmakers to ratify the treaty for years.
More recently, the Pentagon’s top military officer in charge of the Pacific suggested that the United States’ must ratify the treaty if the country is to have any credibility on the issue going forward.Admiral Harry B. Harris, Jr., commander of United States Pacific Command, has said that not being a signatory to the UNCLOS opens the United States up to accusations of hypocrisy, it also has an economic impact as Washington cannot press its claim in the Arctic, for example.
“I’m a proponent of it [UNCLOS],” Harris testified before the HASC on Feb. 24. “I think that in the 21st century our moral standing is affected by the fact that we are not a signatory to UNCLOS.”