Defense department has consistently advocated accession to UNCLOS as critical to U.S. Interests
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As already noted, Donald Rumsfeld played a key role in stopping the United States and other nations’ treaty ratification efforts in the 1980s. It is a compelling point, therefore, to note that Secretary Rumsfeld’s Defense Department urged Treaty accession in 2003. On October 21, 2003, a deputy assistant secretary of defense testified that the Convention is “critical to the United States Armed Forces.”53 The basis for Defense Depart- ment accession support was based in part on navigation rights deemed “critical to mili- tary operations” and “essential to the formulation and implementation of [U.S.] national security strategy.”54 While some have contended that these and other law of the sea rights could be exercised employing the “reflection” approach, the Defense Department identified certain additional benefits that would come only with accession, includ- ing participation in international maritime fora and Convention-established entities.55 Participation, noted the Defense Department representative, would allow the United States to “prevent the erosion of navigational rights and freedoms . . . [and work toward] international consensus proscribing the maritime trafficking of weapons of mass destruc- tion.”56 While recommending Treaty accession, the Defense Department did identify a number of issues that it deemed worthy of Senate attention, and one of these will be noted here.
Top defense officials, including the current and all former Chiefs of Naval Operations, have lined up to publicly support U.S. accession to UNCLOS. In addition, the Defense Department has repeatedly endorsed ratification in numerous studies and planning documents.