Law of Sea Treaty Draws GOP Focus; Hopefuls Hit Power Expansion

Article excerpt

Byline: Stephen Dinan, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The Law of the Sea convention, a relic of the 1970s, could become the next fight of this year's Republican presidential campaign, with some of the candidates trying to push it to the front of the debate.

Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor who is emerging as a top-tier challenger, has called it "one of the defining issues of our time" and used this weekend's Values Voter Summit in Washington to blast the treaty as a threat to U.S. freedom.

"Let's stop the Law of Sea Treaty," Mr. Huckabee said, drawing an ovation from religious conservatives as he listed it and judges who abide by international law as prominent dangers to U.S. sovereignty.

He has been joined by former Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, both of whom this week announced their own fears about the convention, underscoring a wariness among Republican voters about international organizations and anything that expands the reach of the United Nations.

"Governor Romney has concerns with the Law of the Sea Treaty," said Mr. Romney's spokesman, Kevin Madden. "He believes giving unaccountable international institutions more power is a serious problem."

Mr. Thompson went even further, saying he opposes the convention because it "threatens U.S. sovereignty and gives a U.N.-affiliated organization far too much authority over U.S. interests in international waters."

The convention creates rules governing ocean navigation, conservation and seabed mining. Its official name is the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea though opponents call it the Law of the Sea Treaty because they like the acronym LOST.

It was negotiated between 1973 and 1982, stalled when President Reagan raised concerns in 1982, was revived through new negotiations under President George H.W. Bush and was sent to the Senate by President Clinton. The current White House has also called for ratification, arguing the convention would help preserve navigational freedom for the Navy, among other benefits. …