Military Leaders Urge Senators to Ratify Sea Treaty
By Amaani Lyle
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 14, 2012 With U.S. credibility and, ultimately, national security at stake, now is the time to join the United Nations’ Law of the Sea Convention, military leaders told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee today.
Navy Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr., vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Navy Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert, chief of naval operations; U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Robert J. Papp Jr; Air Force Gen. William M. Fraser III, commander of U.S. Transportation Command; Air Force Gen. Charles H. Jacoby Jr., commander of U.S. Northern Command; and Navy Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, commander of U.S. Pacific Command, testified before the committee.
The leaders contend the treaty ensures necessary over-flight and maritime passage rights for U.S. military and commercial ships in an increasingly complex and competitive security landscape.
Greenert said the treaty describes the extent of control that nations can legally assert at sea and outlines procedures to peacefully resolve differences. “As a member of the convention, our ability to press the rule of law and to peacefully deter conflict will certainly be enhanced,” he said.
Despite debate over the possible loss of sovereignty following accession, the panel voiced staunch support for the treaty. Greenert asserted America’s status as a non-signatory is sometimes questioned by partners in the U.S. Fifth Fleet, a coalition that maintains maritime security in areas of the Middle East.
“Out of the 26 nations that serve in this coalition, only three – including the United States – are not a party to the convention,” Greenert said. “Acceding to the convention will enhance our position as a leader of that coalition and a leader in the world of maritime nations in the Middle East and elsewhere.”
Locklear testified that as populations and economies of the Asia Pacific region continue to grow, competing claims in the maritime domain by some coastal states also are increasing.
“Some of these claims, if left unchallenged, will put operational rights and … freedoms in key areas of the Asia Pacific [at risk],” Locklear said. “Nowhere is this more prevalent than in the South China Sea where claimants have asserted broad territorial and sovereignty rights over land features, sea space and resources in the area."
Overall, the United States must sustain unfettered global mobility and legally binding favorable transit rights that the Law of the Sea endows for commercial and military entities, Locklear said.
“On any given day, U.S. Transcom has approximately 30 ships, loading, unloading or underway, and we have mobility aircraft taking off and landing every 90 seconds,” he said. “It’s vital that we maintain freedom of the high seas and international over-flight routes for our military.”
Fraser added that joining the law of the sea convention creates a solid legal foundation to help move supplies and equipment to U.S. warfighters around the globe.