The "peaceful purposes" clause in UNCLOS has no practical effect on U.S. military
The critics evince little knowledge of international or oceans law, and consequently make arguments contrary to U.S. interests. For example, some have argued that the provision in Article 88 that limits use of the high seas for "peaceful purposes" would constrain U.S. warships or prevent military activities on the high seas. (6) But to make this argument is to unknowingly adopt the "old" Soviet line, no longer embraced even by Russia, which was never supported by the United States. During the negotiations, the U.S. representative accurately described the "peaceful purposes" language when he said:
The term "peaceful purposes" did not, of course, preclude military activities generally. The United States had consistently held that the conduct of military activities for peaceful purposes was in full accord with the Charter of the United Nations and with the principles of international law. Any specific limitation on military activities would require the negotiation of a detailed arms control agreement. (7)
Indeed, in their zeal to complain about the convention, the critics promote an interpretation of this language that may be cited by opponents of future space-based missile defense programs. Thus, in a different context, the implication of this argument would be to ban the aforementioned defense systems because of our adherence to the Outer Space Treaty that contains the same "peaceful purposes" language. (8) Real world experience refutes this argument by showing warships of every major power freely navigating the world's oceans despite the convention being in force for 149 nations.
"The Senate should give immediate advice and consent to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea: why the critics are wrong.
." Journal of International Affairs
. Vol. 59, No. 1 (Fall/Winter 2005) [ More (18 quotes) ]