US credibility and legitimacy suffers when it pushes for treaties like UNCLOS but then declines to ratify them
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This is exactly the problem with the U.S. position on UNCLOS and the disconnect between stated intentions and the ultimate failure to ratify. As John B. Bellinger III points out, treaty partners “lose confidence in the ability of the United States to make good on its word when we negotiate and sign treaties but don’t ultimately become party to them.”48 Specifically what Mr. Bellinger is referring to is the loss of U.S. credibility, or in other words the rightness of actions. Furthermore, because the United States is so successful at negotiating treaties, when representatives push hard for and are in turn granted changes within the document (as is the case with the 1994 agreement on implementation), but then ultimately fail to accede, it is very frustrating for the other nations involved.49 Again, this erodes U.S credibility and in turn legitimacy of action. With this in mind, the U.S. Senate must take the earliest opportunity to harvest this “low hanging fruit” and free PACOM from a barrier that detracts from shaping operations in the South China Sea (SCS).50
U.S. failure to ratify UNCLOS raises fundamental questions regarding not only the future of legal regimes applicable to the world’s oceans, but also U.S. leadership in promoting international law and order.
Additionally, our partners lose confidence in the ability of the United States to make good on its word when we negotiate and sign treaties but don’t ultimately become party to them, especially as in the case of UNCLOS where the U.S. negotiated aggressively to win valuable concessions and won them.