Conventions's provisions on 'peaceful purposes' cannot be used to constrain lawful military activities
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The negotiating history on the Convention is clear on this point. In 1976, Ecuador attempted to turn the “peaceful purposes” provisions into an arms control obligation. They got nowhere. In response to the argument by Ecuador in 1976, the U.S. replied:
“The term ‘peaceful purposes’ did not, of course, preclude military activities generally. The United States has 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.”
See 66-68th plenary sessions in 1976. In 1985, the Secretary General of the United Nations reported that, “military activities which are consistent with the principles of international law embodied in the Charter of the United Nations, in particular Article 2, paragraph 4, and Article 52, are not prohibited by the Convention on the Law of the Sea.
Some opponents of UNCLOS have argued that by ratifying UNCLOS, U.S. military forces could be subject to adverse ruling by international tribunals through the dispute resolution mechanisms of the treaty. However, the U.S. defense department has reviewed the relevant law and has found no undue liability risk to U.S. forces. Furthermore, in the Senate's Advice and Consent resolution that would ratify UNCLOS, the U.S. has taken advantage of article 298(1) in UNCLOS to exempt itself from all dispute settlement.