Bush administration carefully weighed risks of acceding to UNCLOS and ruled that it was on balance in U.S. National security interests to ratify
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When the Bush Administration came into office in January 2001, we began a careful review of all of the treaties that had been submitted to the Senate by the Clinton Administration to determine which treaties the Bush Administration would support and would not support. The Bush Administration did not support all of the treaties that had been supported by the prior Administration. For example, the Bush Administration did not support the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, which had been strongly supported by the Clinton Administration. We did not support the Kyoto Protocol, which had been signed by the Clinton Administration. Many Bush Administration officials were similarly skeptical of the Law of the Sea Convention because it was a multilateral treaty, and President Reagan had refused to sign it. However, after a year-long interagency review, the Bush Administration concluded that the Convention was in the U.S. national interest and decided strongly to endorse the treaty. In February 2002, the Administration submitted its first Treaty Priority List to this Committee and listed the Law of the Sea Convention as a treaty for which there was an “urgent need for Senate approval.”
Let me emphasize that the Bush Administration did not decide to support the Law of the Sea Convention out of a blind commitment to multilateral treaties or international organizations. No one has ever accused the Bush Administration of an over-abundance of enthusiasm for the United Nations or multilateralism. Indeed, the Bush Administration was especially skeptical of the United Nations and many U.N. bodies, such as the Human Rights Council. And the Bush Administration was especially committed to defending U.S. sovereignty and international freedom of action, particularly after September 11.
The Bush Administration decided to support the Law of the Sea Convention and to provide senior Administration officials to testify in favor of the Convention only after weighing the Convention’s benefits against its risks. We ultimately concluded that, on balance, the treaty was clearly in the U.S. national security, economic, and environmental interests.
Ratification of UNCLOS would bolster U.S. national security in numerous ways, including: protecting all six core freedom of navigation rights, protect maritime interdiction rights, and supporting efforts to combat piracy.