Statement of Admiral Vern Clark: On the Law of the Sea Convention (April 8, 2004)
Last year, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Administration officials expressed their serious concerns about whether the Convention's dispute resolution process could possibly affect U.S. military activities. A review was conducted within the Executive Branch on whether a Law of the Sea tribunal could question whether U.S. activities are indeed "military" for purposes of the Convention's military activities exception clause. Based on the Administration's internal review, it is clear that whether an activity is "military" is for each State party to determine for itself. The declaration contained in the current Resolution of Ratification, stating the U.S. understanding that each Party has the exclusive right to determine which of its activities are "military activities" and that such determinations are not subject to review, has appropriately addressed this issue.
Future threats will likely emerge in places and in ways that are not yet fully clear. For these and other undefined future operational challenges, we must be able to take maximum advantage of the established and widely accepted navigational rights the Law of the Sea Convention codifies to get us to the fight rapidly.
Strategic mobility is more important than ever. The oceans are fundamental to that maneuverability; joining the Convention supports the freedom to get to the fight, twenty-four hours a day and seven days a week, without a permission slip.
The Convention provides a stable and predictable legal regime within which to conduct our operations today, and realize our vision for the future. It will allow us to take a leading role in future developments in the law to ensure they are compatible with our vision.