Even proponents of Law of Sea acknowledge ambiguity of 'military activities' clause could lead tribunal to rule against U.S. military
Most influential, though, may be support from the U.S. Navy, which is enamored of the treaty's guarantee of navigational freedom. Not that such freedom is threatened now: The Russian navy is rusting in port, China has yet to develop a blue water capability, and no country is impeding U.S. transit, commercial or military.
At the same time, some ambiguous provisions may impinge on freedoms U.S. shipping now enjoys. In Senate testimony last fall, State Department legal adviser William H. Taft IV noted the importance of conditioning acceptance "upon the understanding that each Party has the exclusive right to determine which of its activities are 'military activities' and that such determination is not subject to review." Whether other members will respect that claim is not at all certain. Admiral Michael G. Mullen, the vice chief of naval operations, acknowledges the possibility that a Law of the Sea tribunal could rule adversely and harm U.S. "operational planning and activities, and our security."
Acceding to UNCLOS would expose the U.S. to lawsuits on virtually any maritime activity, such as alleged pollution of the marine environment from a land-based source or through the atmosphere. Regardless of the merits, the U.S. would be forced to defend itself against every such lawsuit at great expense to U.S. taxpayers. Any judgment rendered by an UNCLOS tribunal would be final, could not be appealed, and would be enforceable in U.S. territory.