U.S. should assert its rights under the Convention of the High Seas to mine and develop in the Arctic, independent of UNCLOS
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If UNCLOS has not become customary international law and thus does not bind the United States with respect to the Arctic area, then the United States is free to argue that the Convention on the High Seas allows it and other nations to freely mine the seabed and navigate the waters of the Arctic. The freedom to navigate the high seas is explicitly guaranteed by the Convention. The United States must argue that the Convention governs the dispute and provides all nations the ability to navigate the Northwest Passage free from interference from Canada or any other nation claiming to own the area. As a result, the United States would be claiming that the Northwest Passage is part of the "common heritage" and that any nation could navigate through it.
The most significant benefit to the United States' argument that the doctrine of the high seas still governs the Arctic Ocean and its seabed is that the United States would be able to exploit the vast natural resources through deep sea mining activities. Unlike the freedom to navigate the high seas, the freedom to mine that area is not explicitly guaranteed, although it is clearly protected. By securing the right to mine and exploit the resources beneath the Arctic Ocean, the United States would be taking a step to guarantee its energy independence and encouraging U.S. businesses to invest in deep sea mining. These two things will, of course, be critical to the U.S. economy in the foreseeable future.
By relying on the Convention and the doctrine of the high seas, the United States may bypass the UNCLOS regime altogether and begin exploration and exploitation of the Arctic area immediately. As a further benefit, the United States will not have to ratify UNCLOS in order to secure these rights. In fact, if the United States does ratify UNCLOS as many have called for, it may be relinquishing these rights completely if no valuable territory is an extension of its continental shelf. Thus, it is clearly in the United States' interest not to ratify UNCLOS and to contest the Russian land claim outside that regime's jurisdiction.
"Don't be Left out in the Cold: An Argument for Advancing American Interests in the Arctic Outside the Ambits of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea
." Georgia Law Review
. (2007-2008): 833-865. [ More (6 quotes) ]
The U.S. can exercise its rights under the 1958 Convention on the High Seas to assert that it is permitted to mine and navigate in its Extended Continental Shelf. Ratifying UNCLOS would constrict the ability of the U.S. to respond to challenges to these rights by forcing all further negotiation to occur through the CLCS.
By relying on the Convention and the doctrine of the high seas, the United States may bypass the UNCLOS regime altogether and begin exploration and exploitation of the Arctic area immediately.