UNCLOS is back. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (aka, the Law of the Sea Treaty) was first hammered out in 1982. Twelve years later, U.S. negotiators signed an amended agreement, but it was never ratified. Now Sen. John F. Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, is pressing for Senate approval, claiming the treaty would give the United States new rights and advantages.
Unfortunately, it does not. What “rights” it recognizes already exist in customary international law. Treaty supporters claim ratification will give the U.S. additional rights to oil, gas and minerals in the deep seabed of its extended continental shelf. But the U.S. already has clear legal title and rights to the resources of its continental shelf (even though the current administration bans drilling there).
Similarly, the treaty’s navigational provisions offer nothing new. Yes, theU.S. Navy says UNCLOS might improve the “predictability” of these rights, but does the Navy’s access to international waters really depend upon a treaty to which we are not even a member? The last time I checked, the U.S. Navy could go anywhere it wanted in international waters.........