Ratification of UNCLOS would trade existing stability provided by customary international law for rule by tribunals
Supporters note that many of the treaty's "freedom of the seas" provisions favor U.S. interests. But the United States already receives the benefits of these provisions because, as Negroponte and England acknowledged, they are "already widely accepted in practice." They maintain that ratifying the convention would nonetheless provide "welcome legal certainty." In recent years, however, the United States has not received much legal certainty from international tribunals dominated by non-American judges, and what it has received has not been very welcome. There is little reason to expect different results from these tribunals.
President Bush invokes a different rationale for ratifying the convention, arguing that it would "give the United States a seat at the table when the rights that are vital to our interests are debated and interpreted." What this really means is that American views of the law of the sea, even on issues related to national security, could be outvoted by a majority in an international forum. How can this make us safer?
U.S. security interests in the oceans have been adequately protected to date by current U.S. ocean policy and implementing strategy. U.S. reliance on arguments that customary international law, as articulated in the non-deep seabed mining provisions of the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention, and as supplemented by diplomatic protests and assertion of rights under the Freedom of Navigation Program, have served so far to preserve fundamental freedoms of navigation and overflight with acceptable risk, cost and effort.