U.S. ratification of UNCLOS will restore its leadership in maritime affairs and arctic policy more generally
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The United States has historically been the world leader in protecting the common interest in navigational freedom and the rule of the law in the oceans. However, America has temporarily lost that leadership by its continued non-adherence to UNCLOS. U.S. accession to the Convention will restore that role and advance U.S. leadership in Arctic Ocean issues.
Joining UNCLOS will put the United States on an even footing with the other Arctic nations, as America assumes the chairmanship of the Arctic Council from Canada in 2015. All of the Council’s member States (except the United States) and its 12 observer States are parties to the Convention. Moreover, in 2008, the five Arctic coastal States (Canada, Denmark, Russia, Norway and the United States) declared at Ilulissat that the law of the sea, as reflected in UNCLOS, is the legal framework that governs the Arctic Ocean, and there is no need for a new legal regime to govern the Arctic Ocean.53 Therefore, U.S. participation in the Arctic Council recognizes UNCLOS as the governing framework in the Arctic
U.S. ratification of UNCLOS would boost its leadership standing in a couple of ways. First, by acceeding to the treaty, the U.S. would immediately be able to participate in the discussion around the future of the treaty and participate in maritime forums that it had previously been locked out of. Secondly, by ratifying the treaty, the U.S. would improve its soft power by showing more of a willingness to cooperate multilaterally.