UNCLOS would help protect U.S. naval freedoms against growing number of excessive claims
[ Page 32-33 ]
Naval Mobility. A seventh factor that underlay the new United States position on the Convention was the global security environment, specifically the increased importance of the oceans connecting the nation, its allies, and its major interests. Diminishing access to overseas bases, the many parts of the world that require naval presence because of continuing instability, and the growing maritime power of many developing nations with apparent regional ambitions pointed to the increasing importance for the United States of naval mobility. An essential element of such mobility is assurance that sea and air lanes of communication will remain open as a matter of international legal right—not at the sufferance of coastal and island nations along the route or in the area of operations.38
In the last two decades there had been a remarkable number of naval confron tations and boundary demarcation or fishing disputes: from 1974 to 1990, at least thirty-seven major demarcation disputes, fifteen noteworthy fishing disagreements, and thirty-one naval conflicts. Eighty-three percent of all US. military responses from 1946 to 1991 had involved naval forces, about half of them solely naval ones. Since the 1986 Goldwater-Nichols Act, with its emphasis on joint operations, fewer operations have been exclusively naval in character, but an even higher proportion—95 percent—have involved naval units. Additionally, the focus of these efforts has overwhelmingly been in littoral waters. In all 270 instances of the employment of naval forces in crisis response from 1946 to 1991, they were used not to counter other naval forces but rather to oppose threats on land. The naval forces therefore had to operate in coastal waters, not the high seas, to project power from the sea onto the land.”
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.