U.S. participation in Ilulissat agreement undermines claim that its non-party status to UNCLOS is hurting its ability to guide Arctic policy
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The U.S. relies on its sovereign power and diplomacy when pursuing territorial claims in the Arctic. The United States is not a party to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST) and therefore is not bound by any procedures and determinations concluded through LOST instruments. Instead, the U.S. is pursuing its claims “as an independent, sovereign nation,” relying in part on Harry S. Truman’s Presidential Proclamation No. 2667, which declares that any hydrocarbon or other resources discovered beneath the U.S. continental shelf are the property of the United States.25 The U.S. can defend its rights and claims through bilateral negotiations and in the multilateral venues such as through the Arctic Ocean Conference in May 2008, which met in Ilulissat, Greenland.
Many have argued, including the Bush Administration, that the U.S. will not have leverage or a “seat at the table” to pursue or defend its Arctic claims on condition that the U.S. is not a party to LOST. However, U.S. attendance at the conference in Ilulissat significantly weakened this argument. Even though the U.S. is not a LOST party, other Arctic nations “are unable to assert credible claims on U.S. territory in the Arctic or anywhere else in the world” because President Truman already secured U.S. rights to Arctic resources with his proclamation.26
By relying on the Convention and the doctrine of the high seas, the United States may bypass the UNCLOS regime altogether and begin exploration and exploitation of the Arctic area immediately.