Senate Panel Takes Up Law of Sea Treaty

By Weiss, Lauren | Arms Control Today, July/August 2012 | Go to article overview

Senate Panel Takes Up Law of Sea Treaty


Weiss, Lauren, Arms Control Today


The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held hearings in may and June on the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which drew strong support from Obama administration officials and Democratic senators but sharp opposition from most Republicans on the panel.

The treaty, which codifies rules of maritime activity, was negotiated from 1973 to 1982. It was amended in 1994 and entered into force later that year. It has more than 160 members, but has never come to a Senate vote.

Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. John Kerry (D-mass.) said during the may 23 hearing he does not "currently intend to bring the treaty to a vote before the November elections." During a hearing on June 14, Kerry said he plans to hold a hearing with U.S. business leaders. he also stated his plans for a briefing for the entire Senate on the relevant classified information after the November elections.

Although primarily a navigation and economic agreement, the treaty has implications for arms control. For example, it would strengthen the Proliferation Security Initiative, which aims to stop trafficking of weapons of mass destruction by clarifying issues of jurisdiction.

Secretary of State hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, and other top government and military officials testified at the hearings that the treaty would ensure U. …

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