Revision of U.S. ability to peacefully resolve South China Sea disputes compromised by its non-party status to UNCLOS from Wed, 08/05/2020 - 23:34

As a signatory to UNCLOS, the PRC occasionally implies that its interpretations should trump those of the United States, which has yet to ratify the convention that Washington nevertheless employs as a bludgeon against Beijing’s claims that UNCLOS permits limitations by coastal states on foreign military activities in the EEZ. The message is that even though the United States asserts its compliance with UNCLOS, because it has not undertaken to be formally bound by the convention it has no standing to impose its self- regarding interpretations of the regime on those states that have ratified it.


Quicktabs: Arguments

Supporters of the United States becoming a party to UNCLOS argue or might argue one or more of the following:

  • The treaty’s provisions relating to navigational rights, including those in EEZs, reflect the U.S. position on the issue; becoming a party to the treaty would help lock the U.S. perspective into permanent international law.
  • Becoming a party to the treaty would give the United States greater standing for participating in discussions relating to the treaty—a “seat at the table”—and thereby improve the U.S. ability to call on China to act in accordance with the treaty’s provisions, including those relating to navigational rights, and to defend U.S. interpretations of the treaty’s provisions, including those relating to whether coastal states have a right under UNCLOS to regulate foreign military activities in their EEZs.
  • At least some of the ASEAN member states want the United States to become a member of UNCLOS, because they view it as the principal framework for resolving maritime territorial disputes.
[ Page 35 ]
O'Rourke, Ronald. Maritime Territorial and Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) Disputes Involving China: Issues for Congress . Congressional Research Service: Washington, D.C., April 11, 2014 (59p). [ More (4 quotes) ]