NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


June 4, 2007

The Law of the Sea Treaty, deep-sixed years ago by the Reagan Administration, resurfaced recently when President Bush issued a statement urging its ratification.  Let's hope the Senate sends it back to the bottom of the ocean, says the Wall Street Journal.

There are several reasons not to adopt the treaty, says the Journal.  For example:

  • It is not in the national interest of the United States to have its maritime or economic power subject to the whims of a highly politicized U.N. bureaucracy often driven by an anti-American agenda.
  • Nor is it in its interest to be a party to another treaty that other signatories might flout with impunity; unlike some nations -- think Iran or North Korea and the IAEA or the Nonproliferation Treaty -- the United States takes its treaty obligations seriously.

In addition, the Treaty could also get in the way of fighting the war on terror, for which the United States needs maximum flexibility:

  • Take the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), for example, arguably the Administration's most successful multilateral operation in combating the transfer of weapons of mass destruction.
  • The treaty identifies only four circumstances under which ships may be stopped on the high seas -- human trafficking, drug trafficking, piracy and illegal broadcasting; were the United States a party to the treaty, it could face a challenge to PSI.

Some 152 nations are signatories to the Law of the Sea Treaty, with the United States one of the lone holdouts, says the Journal.  America has been complying voluntarily with the terms of treaty since 1983 -- a situation that protects its sovereignty and gives it maximum flexibility.

Source: Editorial, "Lost at Sea," Wall Street Journal, June 2, 2007.

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