Law of the Sea Treaty Debated

Article excerpt


David B. Rivkin Jr. and Lee A. Casey are correct that most reasons prompting President Reagan to reject the Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST) remain present ("Ratifying sea treaty a mistake," Op-Ed, Friday).

Further, it is indeed inescapable that LOST is an offering in the "look how internationalist we are" reparations campaign that has followed President Bush's withdrawal from the International Criminal Court and refusal, like President Clinton, to submit the Kyoto Protocol for Senate ratification (though a vote rejecting that signed treaty is sorely needed).

One additional point is crucial to any assessment of LOST's threat to U.S. sovereignty. That is the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, which, in already hearing cases, helpfully provides a glimpse of the United States' future should we ratify this abhorrence.

This international court has already asserted, in the Mox case involving a U.K. nuclear plant, that it will determine its own competence, or scope and jurisdiction, even in the face of other extant treaties designed to address the issue at hand.

For example, LOST purports, through its Part XII, "Protection and Preservation of the Marine Environment," to govern claims of rising sea levels and melting ice caps. Although, of course, this is not an appropriate forum to assess the scientific validity of such predictions, the LOST tribunal inarguably provides the two elements lacking in the greens' Kyoto dream: an enforcement mechanism and jurisdiction over the United States.

One thing is clear, given that, by LOST's own terms, it is not necessary that the United States ratify Kyoto to be subject under this unaccountable court to Kyoto's object and purpose: Whatever reasons drove President Bush to do the right thing on the ICC and Kyoto also mandate that he replicate those feats and maintain Mr. Reagan's rejection of the Law of the Sea Treaty.


Senior fellow

Competitive Enterprise Institute



Recent articles ("Skeptical Senate eyes sea treaty," World, March 7, "Law of the Sea Treaty" Op-Ed, March 16 and "Ratifying sea treaty a mistake," Op-Ed, March 25) betray a dismayingly myopic discussion of an issue of critical significance - the long-delayed U.S. accession to the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) - and the potential for enhancing the good order of the "oceanic commons" they deride. By dredging up failed arguments about potential implications of "flawed" treaty elements that might be the bane of U.S. self-interests, coupled with a distrust of any international solution, they ignore the deep and broad support for the treaty in the White House and the Congress, in both major parties, as well as the more general benefits of the convention:

* The Clinton administration submitted the convention to the Senate for its advice and consent, stating, "Early adherence by the United States to the Convention and the Agreement is important to maintain a stable legal regime for all uses of the sea."

* The George W. …