Ratifying UNCLOS would give US ability to credibly demand nations abide by rules in South China Sea
[ Page 4-5 ]
As the Asia Pacific region continues to rise, competing claims and counter claims in the maritime domain are becoming more prominent. Nowhere is this more prevalent than in the South China Sea. Numerous claimants have asserted broad territorial and sovereignty rights over land features, sea space, and resources in the area. The United States has consistently encouraged all parties to resolve their disputes peacefully through a rules-based approach. The Convention is an important component of this rules-based approach and encourages the peaceful resolution of maritime disputes. Here again though, the effectiveness of the U.S. message is somewhat less credible than it might otherwise be, due to the fact that we are not a party to the Convention.
Some States in the USPACOM AOR have adopted deliberate strategies vis-à-vis the United States to try to manipulate international law to achieve desired ends. Such strategies are infinitely more achievable when working within the customary international law realm, versus the realm of treaty-based law. By joining the Convention, we greatly reduce this interpretive maneuver space of others and we place ourselves in a much stronger position to demand adherence by others to the rules contained in the Convention – rules that we have been following, protecting and promoting from the outside for many decades.
U.S. capability to influence China would be strengthened by a reassertion of the American leadership role over the development of international law of the sea. Since UNCLOS is the basis of modern international law of the sea, the U.S. should ratify the Convention in order to more effectively exercise this leadership from within the ranks, not just from outside them.