UNCLOS will allow adversaries to challenge U.S. in court and acquire valuable military technology
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Much more ambitious schemes of re-distribution and technology-transfer were originally intended, but the unfortunate fact that no companies actually did any mining reduced the ambitions of the treaty- writers. Even so, as Rabkin points out, the 1994 revision still has commitments to technology-transfer—and the power to make it a condition of granting mining licenses to signatory countries. The treaty also contains large and vague provisions for protecting the marine and littoral en- vironments. The structure of UNCLOS means that bodies it has created, such as the ISA and ITLOS, are now in effect independent international agencies accountable only to each other. They enjoy both the taxing power in light disguise and the ability to expand the reach of their regulatory activities. And they have a claque of exter- nal supporters in nation-states that are con- tent to have their own sovereignty limited provided that America’s sovereignty is curbed too—even without Washington’s consent.
Even though the U.S. has not ratified UNCLOS, the Chinese government exploited its technology-transfer provisions to obtain advanced sonar technology from U.S. companies. Britain has joined UNCLOS since Thatcher, with the result that the Irish government sought to compel Britain to close down a nuclear reactor on British soil on the grounds that it was adversely impacting the maritime environment and so violating the environmental features of UNCLOS. And if the U.S. actually does sign on, that will add federal judges to the long list of people seeking to exploit the treaty to constrain and direct America’s elected policymakers.
Although the 1994 treaty modifications have toned down some of the most direct mandatory technology transfer requirements, the treaty still places at risk some very sensitive, and militarily useful, technology which may readily be misused by the navies of ocean mining states.