Our adversaries can take advantage of US absence from the treaty to change the rules to their advantage
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Additionally, while convention or treaty-based international law is less subject to change and interpretation, it is not immune from change. Parties can collectively agree to change the rule-set in a treaty or adopt particular interpretations of its provisions, in accordance with the terms of the treaty. Given that over 160 nations are currently parties to the Convention, if the rule-set were to change, we might no longer be able to argue that the existing, favorable set of rules under the Convention reflects customary international law. We would be forced to either accept the new rule-set or act as a persistent objector, either of which would come with its own risks. Moreover, our continued status as a non-party allows States an enhanced ability to co-opt the existing text of the Convention and attempt to re-interpret its rules contrary to the original intent that we and other maritime powers helped to negotiate. It would be much more beneficial for the United States to lead the international community in this crucial area of international law from within the Convention, rather than from the outside.
As the pre-eminent global maritime power, the U.S. has significant interests in the global effect of the Convention’s rules and their interpretation with many issues that of greater concern to us than to most other countries (for example, preserving freedom of navigation rights). Our adversaries view this as a weakness they can exploit and are shaping the course of the convention in ways adverse to U.S. interests while the U.S. remains on the sidelines, unable to participate in the discussion as a non-party.