Forum on the Ratification of the Law of the Sea Convention

Forum on the Ratification of the Law of the Sea Convention

On May 9, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke to a gathering of US national security and business leaders in Washington, DC, convened by The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Atlantic Council.

Participants at the event today called the Law of the Sea Convention essential to protect American security and economic interests, guarantee the global mobility of US armed forces, and extend US sovereignty. Numerous high-ranking former US military officials and a diverse array of business representatives also attended the forum to discuss the national security and economic merits of the treaty.

The benefits of US participation in the treaty include:

  • A Stronger Economy: For example, the treaty would grant the United States worldwide commercial access to undersea communications cables that keep America connected across the globe.
  • Enhanced National Security: For example, the US military would be in the strongest possible position to protect our legal rights to move through and over the world’s oceans (via ships and aircraft), and ensure unimpeded access to critical maritime transit routes. This includes traveling through geopolitically important choke points such as the Strait of Hormuz.
  • Extension of US Sovereignty: The treaty would strengthen America’s claim to the full outer continental shelf. In the case of Alaska, this would extend US sovereignty 600 miles offshore, instead of the current 200-mile limit.

“Frankly, this is not even a close call – the Law of the Sea Convention is supported by major US industries, the Chamber of Commerce, our energy, shipbuilding, shipping, and communications companies, and environmental organizations – along with past and present Republican and Democratic administrations and the entire national security leadership,” said Secretary Panetta. “Not since we acquired the lands of the American West and Alaska have we had such an opportunity to expand US sovereignty.”

“The US Chamber of Commerce strongly supports the Law of the Sea Treaty because it would provide clear legal rights and protections to American businesses to transit, lay undersea cables, and take advantage of the vast natural resources in and under the oceans off the US coasts and around the world,” said Bruce Josten, executive vice president for Government Affairs at the US Chamber of Commerce.

“The United States stands with Turkey as the only NATO members that have not ratified Law of the Sea, a US.-initiated treaty that protects American interests off US shores and around the world,” said Chuck Hagel, a former senator from Nebraska and now chairman of the Atlantic Council. “Senate ratification this year would allow America to take its rightful place and enjoy the benefits and protections of this important treaty.”

“Vital American security and economic interests have, and will continue to, come under increasing threat,” said Senator John Warner, former Secretary of the Navy and former Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, who is a senior adviser for national security at Pew. “The United States can dramatically expand its sovereign rights by becoming party to this treaty.”

All living former US Presidents and Secretaries of State, the current members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and dozens of current and former Army, Marine, and Air Force generals and Navy and Coast Guard admirals have endorsed the Law of the Sea Treaty.


National Security and Business Leaders: Law of the Sea is ‘Vital’ to U.S. National Interests


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