WASHINGTON: Leading legislators from both parties welcomed today’s UN tribunal ruling against Chinese claims in the South China Sea. But while Republicans focused on China’s misdeeds, Democrats consistently brought up an American omission: The United States has never ratified the very treaty empowering the tribunal to stand up China, the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
UNCLOS has been in contention since the Reagan era. Republicans rejected it primarily for imposing UN bureaucracy, and potentially even taxation, over US activities such as seabed mining. President Clinton signed the implementation agreement in 1994, and the US military abides by it religiously, but the treaty itself has never been ratified by the Senate.
“We are limited in our ability to strengthen international law… if we cannot lead by example,” said Sen. Jack Reed, top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, in a rare public divergence from SASC chairman John McCain. ”The United States has not yet ratified UNCLOS, despite calls from our top military leaders who agree it will strengthen our national security. The treaty is the foundation for today’s ruling, and U.S. support for UNCLOS will be critical if we are to be successful in advocating for the rule of law throughout the region.”