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US makes push to adopt UN sea agreement

Release Time: 2012-5-25|Read: 2461 times | Print

In a move analysts say is designed to give it more say in disputes over the South China Sea, the United States began a new push to join the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which it has not ratified for 30 years.

The Obama administration, backed by senior military officials and business leaders, is making a new push to win US Senate ratification of the treaty, reported Reuters.

US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testified before the committee on Wednesday at the start of several months of hearings, said Reuters.

There have been debates in the United States about whether to join the treaty over the years, and the latest push has much to do with its strategic pivot toward Asia, said Gong Li, director of the Institute of International Strategic Studies of the Party School of the Communist Party of China Central Committee.

Supporters say the agreement would vastly expand US control of resource-rich maritime regions off the coastal United States and give the military firmer footing to assert rights of navigation and overflight around the world, according to Reuters.

But critics, who have succeeded in blocking the accord since it first came to the Senate in the mid-1990s, said the United States stands to gain little beyond what it can already claim, while it will cede some of its sovereignty to an international organization, according to Reuters.

"Not joining the treaty puts the US in a passive position on many occasions. Many of its rights are not protected, and it has been criticized by other countries for telling them to abide by a treaty that the US itself is not a party to," Gong said.

The United States has claimed national interests in the oil-rich South China Sea, where territorial disputes over some islands are simmering between China and the Philippines as well as among other Southeast Asian nations.

Some Filipino-Americans are hoping the United States finally ratifies the treaty as a way to keep China at bay in the South China Sea, reported ABS-CBN, a major commercial TV network in the Philippines.

The Philippines is relying on the treaty to provide the foundation for the peaceful settlement of the overlapping territorial claims in the South China Sea, it said.

"By ratifying the treaty, the US could increase its voice on the South China Sea issue legitimately," Gong said. "But meanwhile its behaviors will also be restrained by the treaty, which will be good for China."

During Congressional hearings on Wednesday, John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he will wait until after the presidential election to call a vote on the treaty, which is opposed by some conservatives, according to the Wall Street Journal.

"I do not want this treaty to become victim to that race or the politics of the moment," Kerry said. "We will wait until the passions of the election have subsided before we vote," the newspaper said.

The treaty was drafted in 1982, and US President Ronald Reagan declined to send it to the Senate for ratification because of concerns over seabed mining provisions.

Those provisions were modified in 1994, and former US presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush supported ratifying the pact.

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