State, Pentagon Support Sea Treaty; but Senators Express Concern for Navigation, Military Needs

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Byline: Kristina Wong, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The nation's top defense officials warned Congress on Wednesday that the U.S. will have to rely solely on military might to assert itself on the high seas and maintain freedom of navigation if the Law of the Sea Treaty is not ratified.

The force of arms does not have to be, and should not be, our only national security instrument, Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

If the U.S engages in gunboat diplomacy, instead of international law governing rights and responsibilities on the high seas, then the end result of that is going to be conflict, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta told the committee.

The better approach is to have those carriers, have those destroyers, make very clear the power we have, but then sit down and engage these other countries in a rules-based format that allows us to make the kinds of arguments that we have to make when we engage with 160 other nations as to navigational rights, Mr. Panetta said.

The Law of the Sea Treaty provides a structure for nations to discuss and establish rules for sea territory, transit through international waterways, and sovereignty of vessels, among other issues. It also provides a mechanism for dispute resolution among member nations.

The U.S. signed onto the treaty in 1994, but Congress has yet to ratify it.

Sen. James M. Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican, said that ratifying the treaty would subject the U.S. to environmental regulations and would require the U.S. to pay billions to developing countries for royalties from oil and gas production.

This is the first time in history that an international organization - the U.N., in this case - would possess taxing authority over this country, Mr. Inhofe said during Wednesday's committee hearing.

Sen. …