U.S. can extend the range of territory under its sovereign control by ratifying UNCLOS
The area of resource jurisdiction the U.S. would gain legal status to by ratifying the treaty is approximately equal to that of the continental United States and exceeds the area of the Louisiana Purchase, the purchase of Alaska or any other addition to U.S. sovereignty in history.
[ Page 163-164 ]
While the Convention appears to be a widely supported agreement, it has failed to receive consent of the Senate. The opposition has focused mainly on a few “primarily ideological, objections to the Convention so as to take advantage of several procedural customs within the Senate . . . .”102 The most often cited argument against ratifying the Convention involves the surrender of U.S. sovereignty. However, as noted in section III, the Convention actually expands the United States sovereignty rights. It grants the United States exclusive rights to a twelve-mile territorial sea, a 200-mile EEZ, and finally a possibility to extend its continental shelf up to 350 miles.103 This brings an additional 4.1 million miles2 of ocean under American jurisdiction.
The final, and currently most prominent, argument against ratification surrounds sovereignty. Opponents say that, by limiting itself to a 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone and whatever extended continental shelf it can claim, the United States is restricting its jurisdictional sovereignty. What this argument misses, however, is that the United States’ continental shelf is the largest of any—up to 600 miles offshore in the Arctic alone. John Norton Moore of the University of Virginia School of Law has argued that ratification would “massively increase [U.S.] sovereign jurisdiction” by more than the size of the Louisiana Purchase and Alaska combined.
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Perhaps the most obvious and compelling gain for the United States will be secure title to jurisdiction over the non-living resources of the seabed and subsoil of the continental shelf extending beyond 200 nautical miles (nm). Both customary and conventional international law recognize state rights to this limit, but sea areas beyond are high seas, and sea-bed and sub-soil are part of the common heritage of humanity. These principles have been in process of development since the 1960s. The Convention, however, allows coastal States to establish outer limits to the continental shelf that go beyond 200nm provided the conditions set for in Article 76 of the Convention are satisfied. Through this process the United States stands to gain rights to enormous areas of seabed, especially in the Arctic. The Convention established the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) to give official imprimatur to such outer continental shelf limits and thus the 'extended' or 'outer' continental shelf areas enclosed within them.9 This is crucially important, because without secure legal title, it is hard to envisage any commercial entity wishing to explore and exploit resources beyond 200nm being able or willing to invest the billions of dollars necessary to conduct such operations, especially in hostile environments such as the Arctic. It should not be forgotten that security of title, and the need to ensure proper control of activities, were among the policy considerations which led to the 'Truman Proclamation' on the Continental Shelf of 1945.10 This Proclamation laid the foundation for the entire modern law of the sea, because it took state rights beyond the limits of the territorial sea for the first time.
"Time for the United States to Join the Party? Prospects for US Ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea
." International Zeitschrift
. Vol. 8, No. 3 (December 2012): 1-6. [ More (4 quotes) ]
[ Page 59 ]
The Law of the Sea Convention allows countries to claim a continental shelf beyond their 200-nautical-mile EEZ, to a line 350 nautical miles from their coastal baselines, if they can establish that their continental shelf meets the complicated formula found in Article 76. This provision may be of substantial importance in the Arctic, now that the ice in that region is breaking up, as exemplified by Russia’s planting of a flag on the sea floor of the North Pole on August 2, 2007. Russia was not claiming the North Pole, but was exploring the seabed to see whether it could justify a claim to an extended continental shelf under Article 76. The United States may also be able to make an extended continental shelf claim in the Arctic region, perhaps claiming ‘‘more than 200,000 square miles of additional undersea territories,’’41 but its ability to make such a claim credibly will be substantially weakened if it remains outside the Law of the Sea Convention.42
Myth: U.S. adherence will entail history's biggest voluntary transfer of wealth and surrender of sovereignty.
To the contrary, the convention enhances not only sovereignty of U.S. military ships and aircraft, but also bolsters our resource jurisdiction over a vast area off of our coasts. In fact, the convention supports the sovereign rights of the United States over extensive maritime territory and the natural resources therein, including a broad continental shelf that in many areas extends well beyond the 200-nm limit. The area of resource jurisdiction confirmed under national control of the United States by this convention is approximately equal to that of the continental United States and exceeds the area of the Louisiana Purchase, the purchase of Alaska or any other addition to U.S. sovereignty in history. It is also the most extensive of any nation in the world. The mandatory technology transfer provisions of the deep seabed mining sections in the original convention, to which the United States objected, were eliminated in the 1994 agreement. Any transfer of funds to nations from deep seabed mining revenues, or oil and gas development beyond 200 miles, is subject to a U.S. veto. As such, we not only have a veto over where our seabed mining revenue would go, but also over that of all nations worldwide. This new power is simply lost if we fail to adhere
"The Senate should give immediate advice and consent to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea: why the critics are wrong.
." Journal of International Affairs
. Vol. 59, No. 1 (Fall/Winter 2005) [ More (18 quotes) ]