U.S. lacks standing to challenge Iranian and Chinese excessive claims as a non-party to UNCLOS
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However, as a non-Party to UNCLOS, the United States lacks standing to challenge other nations’ excessive claims in the Arctic citing the provisions of the Convention. The same is true in other regions of the world. China, for example, continues to pursue an aggressive posture in the South China Sea and routinely criticizes the United States for not being a Party to UNCLOS—“the U.S. insists that China must base its [South China Sea] claims solely on the 1982 UNCLOS although the U.S. itself has not ratified it.”60 Similarly, when Iran signed UNCLOS in 1982, it filed a declaration indicating, inter alia, that “only states parties to the Law of the Sea Convention shall be entitled to benefit from the contractual rights created therein, [including] the right of Transit passage through straits used for internation- al navigation.”61 Thus, Iran argues that the United States does not enjoy a right of transit passage through the Strait of Hormuz because that right is contractual in nature. Joining the Convention would put the United States on solid legal ground to conclusively “put to bed” these assertions.
Iran has frequently threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz in retaliation for adverse sanctions or military action. Ratifying UNCLOS would nullify Iran’s challenges should it ever choose to close the strait to U.S. or other flagged ships. Moreover, ratifying LOSC will provide the U.S. Navy the strongest legal footing for countering an Iranian anti-access campaign in the Persian Gulf.
The U.S. is currently tracking dozens of excessive claims by states, some of which are from states seeking to take advantage of perceived U.S. weakness due to its non-party status to UNCLOS. Regardless, the U.S. would be in a better position to contest these claims (and dissuade further claims) as a party to UNCLOS.