U.S. needs to be party to UNCLOS to fully exercise and defend its navigational rights in the Arctic
[ Page 11 ]
First, the policy statement highlights the importance to our national security of navigation rights through international straits in the Northwest Passage over North America and the Northern Sea Route over Russia's northern border.33 Military and commercial navigation through those straits will become more important-and perhaps more contested-as the Arctic sea ice recedes and thins. Part III of the LOS Convention on straits used for international navigation includes twelve detailed articles that address the status of such straits, the right of transit passage, and the rights, responsibilities, and jurisdiction of states bordering on those straits. Although a right of transit passage through international states almost certainly ripened into a rule of customary law by the time the LOS Convention entered into force in 1994 (and before Canada became a party to the Convention in 2003), it seems certain that the customary law rule is not nearly as well defined as the articles in Part III of the Convention. Only as a party to the Convention would the United States be in a position to assert the full scope of the navigation rights set out in Part III of the Convention.