U.S. should ratify UNCLOS to constrain China's aggressive maritime expansionism
Senate ratification of UNCLOS is now more urgent than ever so the U.S. can legally challenge China’s ongoing maritime expansionism, including China’s militaristic annexation of the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea and China’s bellicosity towards Taiwan, the Philippines, Australia, and Pacific trade routes used to transport U.S. cargo. China is also trying to restrict freedom of navigation and overflight on the high seas off its shores, contrary to UNCLOS.
Since the U.S. is not a party to UNCLOS, we are handcuffed and nothing but hypocritical when criticizing China for its UNCLOS transgressions. Troubling too, unless we ratify UNCLOS, the U.S. will be left ashore when China strikes paydirt following the issuance of deep-sea mining permits scheduled for 2023 by the UNCLOS-created International Seabed Authority.
Even with U.S. domestic political divisiveness, China’s maritime militarism and maneuvering is something Republicans and Democrats should agree to constrain by bilaterally mustering the two-thirds Senate vote needed under the U.S. Constitution to ratify this treaty.
China also needs to be closely watched in the Arctic -- another region where the U.S. is hamstrung without the force of UNCLOS behind us. China claims to be a “Near-Arctic State” and is conducting “scientific research” in the Arctic. To maintain its “Polar Silk Road” China is building its third Arctic icebreaker -- in contrast to the U.S. which now has only one old heavy icebreaker that splits its time between the Arctic and the Antarctic.
U.S. capability to influence China would be strengthened by a reassertion of the American leadership role over the development of international law of the sea. Since UNCLOS is the basis of modern international law of the sea, the U.S. should ratify the Convention in order to more effectively exercise this leadership from within the ranks, not just from outside them.