U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and top U.S. military leaders are urging Senate lawmakers to approve signing on to an international sea treaty that has long faced opposition out of concern it would undermine U.S. sovereignty.
Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Wednesday, Secretary Clinton called joining the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea a “matter of utmost security and economic urgency.”
“We believe that it is imperative to act now. 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. As a country with an exceptionally large area of sea floor, we benefit from the ability to extend our continental shelf and the oil and gas rights on that shelf. As a global trading power, we benefit from the mobility that the convention accords to all commercial ships. And as the only country under this treaty that was given a permanent seat on the group that will make decisions about deep sea bed mining, we will be in a unique position to promote our interests.”
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told the senators that accession to the 1982 treaty, in effect since 1994, is “essential” if the U.S. is going to assert its role as a maritime power. Also testifying in support of the convention was the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army General Martin Dempsey.
But Senator John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he does not intend to bring the treaty to a vote before the November presidential election. He said he does not want the treaty to become victim to the race or to the politics of the moment.
“We will have extensive hearings, we will do our due diligence, we will prepare for a vote. But unless somehow the dynamic were to shift or change, we will wait until the passions of the election have subsided before we vote.”
The U.S. is the only major nation that has not signed the sea treaty, which has been ratified by 161 countries and the European Union.