“The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), also called the Law of the Sea Convention or the Law of the Sea treaty, is the international agreement that resulted from the third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS III), which took place between 1973 and 1982. The Law of the Sea Convention defines the rights and responsibilities of nations with respect to their use of the world’s oceans, establishing guidelines for businesses, the environment, and the management of marine natural resources. The Convention, concluded in 1982, replaced four 1958 treaties. UNCLOS came into force in 1994, a year after Guyana became the 60th nation to ratify the treaty. As of June 2016, 167 countries and the European Union have joined in the Convention.” Wikipedia
Although the United States helped shape the Convention and its subsequent revisions, and though it signed the 1994 Agreement on Implementation, it has not signed the Convention as it objected to Part XI of the Convention.
The USA is de-facto the world’s leading maritime power, and obviously, it does not want to sign away any prerogatives it might have gained, over the centuries. However, it may be time for the American state to rethink this policy, in a way that would be of benefit to US foreign policy in the long run.
In, an article by Mark J. Valencia featured in Eurasia Review, a very valid point is made:
“But it is in the maritime realm that its [US] hypocrisy stands out. The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) has been ratified by some 168 parties including China. The U.S. alone –among maritime powers– has declined to do so. Yet it accuses Asian countries – especially China – of violating the Convention and uses warships to challenge any of their claims and regimes that in its interpretation ‘illegally’ restricts its rights to freedom of navigation for its warships. It has also repeatedly lambasted China for refusing to accept and abide by an arbitration decision against it rendered through a process mandated by UNCLOS.”
In recent decades, the US has shed any semblance of a soft-power attitude and has been eager to brandish its sword spending trillions on its “war against terrorism,” while also attempting to maintain an active presence globally.
It has leveled charges against its enemies. These have often been effectively challenged by detractors, citing a heavy-handed, unilateral attitude when dealing with opponents, minor and/or major.
China is obviously keeping an eye on American behavior, as concerns maritime law. The US is quick to accuse China of abuses of the maritime status quo. But, it seems to have no moral high ground to stand on by not adhering to what more than 160 countries have agreed upon. This would saw the world what US leadership is all about.
One must also mention that US detractors, if not enemies, are non-party to UNCLOS. Namely Syria, Turkey, and Venezuela. Israel is also not a party to UNCLOS, albeit, it may be a plausible hypothesis, that this is because they want alignment with their greatest sponsor, and if the US did ratify the agreement, it may do so also.
Ratifying the agreement would give the USA a legal and moral edge, and would distance it from revisionist states, while also buttressing its legal position vis-a-vis claims by other powers.
Defenders of the US status quo would argue that the USA would be trading tangible current assets for nebulous future claims. One can only say: You have had no success, on this path, so far, and it’s costing an arm and a leg. Perhaps to save the whole one may have to sever a gangrenous digit… not a limb, a digit.
It would offer much for the USA at a very small price.
Yubitsume (指詰め, “finger shortening”) is a Japanese ritual to atone for offenses to another, a way to be punished or to show sincere apology and remorse to another, by means of amputating portions of one’s own little finger. Wikipedia