Myth 1: “We don't need no stinkin' UNCLOS! " as customary international law will protect important U.S. interests.
Not so. The Convention provides clear legal rules in a written, comprehensive treaty, as opposed to sometimes fuzzy customary international law that is easily challenged by unilateral claims and altered by countries' practices over time. The United States was one of only four countries to vote against the Convention in 1982 and continues to be aligned with such non-signatories as North Korea, relying on a curious mixture of customary law and unofficial adherence to UNCLOS provisions. We can't have it both ways, especially as we seek international partnership in other critical areas of national concern-such as the I.OOO-ship navy and a variety of international governance regimes for the good order and security of the maritime commons.
Myth 2: The United States surrenders sovereignty by joining the Convention.
Again, reality offers a different conclusion. Indeed, some have even characterized UNCLOS as a "U.S. land grab" as it expands U.S. sovereignty and rights throughout extensive maritime territory off America's coastlines. It provides a 12-mile territorial sea subject to U.S. sovereignty, U.S. sovereign rights over resources within a 200mile exclusive economic zone, and U.S. sovereign rights over resources on and under the sea floor to the edge of the continental margin, which extends well beyond 200 miles in several areas-up to 600 miles to the edge of the continental shelf off Alaska, for instance. Also, the dispute-resolution mechanism provides flexibility in terms of both the forum and the exclusion of subject matter that touches sovereignty concerns. And, the navigational provisions, especially for international straits and archipelagic passage, ensure that the nation's warships and public vessels-as sovereign U.S. "territory"-enjoy global maritime mobility and access without requiring prior permission from coastal states.
Myth 3: The Convention would permit an international tribunal to frustrate the operations of the U.S. Sea Services.
Wrong. No international tribunal would have jurisdiction over the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard. Disputes concerning military activities can be completely excluded from the Convention's resolution provisions, and the United States has the exclusive right to determine what constitutes a U.S. military activity. Since 1982, all Chiefs of Naval Operations have supported ratification, and in May 2007 the Coast Guard Commandant underscored the need for ratification.
Myth 6: UNCLOS is an "UN treaty" and sui generis does not serve U.S. interests.
The Convention is not the United Nations; it simply was negotiated under UN auspices, as are many vital international agreements. Such UN treaties as the Anti-Corruption Convention and the Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings or the International Ship and Port Facility security Code negotiated under the aegis of the International Maritime Organization enhance, not threaten, U.S. security.