U.S. cannot protect its interests in the Arctic without ratifying UNCLOS
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In May 2008, the United States signed the Ilulissat Declaration, an agreement among the five coastal states bordering the Arctic Ocean to abide by the customary law of the sea framework, even while it has not yet ratified the broadly accepted United Nation Convention on Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).10 While the Ilulissat Declaration establishes the body of law for managing the rights and obligations of states specifically within the Arctic Ocean, UNCLOS provides the primary mechanism for peaceful resolution of disputes and recognizes underwater territorial boundaries on the extended continental shelf.
Without ratification of UNCLOS, the United States lacks the legal power to contest the claims of other states in issues of overlapping maritime boundaries and the rights to resources on the continental shelf. This could give rise to what the international legal community terms excessive maritime claims. Therefore, unless the United States ratifies UNCLOS, the nation cannot properly protect its freedom of navigation as well as natural resource, energy and environmental interests in the Arctic.11
By remaining outside of UNCLOS, the U.S. is ceding its leadership role in the region in a number of ways. First, and most importantly for the U.S. strategic and economic interests, by remaining outside of the treaty the U.S. is not able to submit its claims for the extended continental shelf in the Arctic to the CLCS, preventing U.S. industries from claiming mineral rights. Secondly, existing Arctic governance regimes are based on and rely on UNCLOS and the U.S. non-party status prevents it from contributing as a full partner, weakening the overall Arctic governance regime. Finally, U.S.