Rightly so, opponents point out that over the past 30 years the consequences of remaining a non-party have been negligible, especially with respect to national security.33 Unfortunately, this in no way guarantees similar results in the future.
Although status quo advocates frequently acknowledge that the United States is already bound by the convention through customary international law and President Reagan’s 1983 Ocean Policy, this isn’t the same as being a party to the convention.34 Furthermore, this is almost circular logic to show that the United States can exploit the convention’s customary law status to receive protection while still operating as a non-party. Such is the case with submissions to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS), economic security within the U.S. exclusive economic zone (EEZ), deep-seabed mining, and freedom of navigation on the high seas.35
This practice, however, is a slippery slope because, “customary law does not provide the precision and detail of a written document. It may establish a principle, but its content may remain imprecise, subject to a range of interpretations.”36 Taking this a step beyond disagreement over interpretations, customary law can and will change and as the U.S. Navy Judge Advocate Corps (JAG) asserts, “relying on customary international law as the basis for...rights and freedoms is an unwise and unnecessary risk.”37
It is not too late to accede to the convention, and unlike opponents and status quo advocates would have the public believe, there are still good reasons to take the next step and lock into the convention while conditions remain favorable to U.S. interests.