Activating Law of Sea

The Christian Science Monitor, April 22, 1993 | Go to article overview

Activating Law of Sea


BEFORE the end of 1993, enough nations are expected to have ratified the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) for it to come officially into effect.

But several key nations, possibly including the United States, will not be among the signatories.

American participation in the framing of UNCLOS from 1970 to 1982 was led by Elliot Richardson, former US Attorney General, US Ambassador to Britain, and holder of many other state and national posts.

Despite its leading role in framing the Sea Law, the US did not sign UNCLOS during the 12-year Republican administration of Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush. Other Western nations, including Britain and Germany, have not signed the convention. Ratification by 56 of the 156 nations that signed the convention is needed to make it international law.

At this writing, six more signatures are needed; it is expected that they will be obtained and UNCLOS will become effective. America should be in the forefront of those making it an effective reality. The main reason for US failure to ratify the Law of the Sea, according to Mr. Richardson and others, is Washington's concern that it does not sufficiently protect America's rights in eventual mining of the seabed for valuable minerals.

Critics argue, however, that exploitation of undersea resources is much further in the future than was once surmised.

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