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Appendix G
NATIONAL SECURITY AND THE LAW OF THE SEA CONVENTION

NATIONAL SECURITY AND THE LAW OF THE SEA CONVENTION

Internationally agreed–upon freedoms of navigation and overflight are essential to U.S. economic and national security. As a maritime nation, the United States depends upon freedoms of navigation and overflight in order to support global economy. The complex geopolitical landscape of the post–Cold War era also puts a premium on military forces that can move quickly anywhere in the world’s oceans to provide presence for diplomatic purposes, to project power from the sea, to enforce United Nations sanctions, or to conduct humanitarian operations. In the past decade, U.S. military forces have been called upon to participate in more than a dozen joint and combined operations that were critically dependent on internationally recognized transit rights and high seas freedoms of navigation and overflight.

The customary international freedoms of navigation and overflight that are critical to U.S. economic and national security are codified in the Law of the Sea Convention. To date, 131 nations and the European Community are parties to the Convention. The parties include most key U.S. allies, many important non–aligned states, and all the major maritime powers except the United States. In October 1994, the President transmitted the Convention and its Implementing Agreement to the Senate for advice and consent. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has not yet scheduled ratification hearings.

DoD continues to fully support U.S. accession to the Law of the Sea Convention, because the Convention supports the full range of U.S. interests in ocean activities—most importantly, an ocean regime strongly supportive of operational rights essential to the planning and execution of the national defense strategy. The Convention guarantees the right of innocent passage through foreign territorial seas and constrains coastal states from unreasonably extending their maritime boundaries. The Convention also reaffirms the legal right to move military forces through international straits, archipelagic sea lanes, and international waters and airspace, thereby preserving the ability to deter and respond to threats whenever and wherever required pursuant to U.S. national security objectives.

The end of the Cold War has not changed the fact that many economic, political, and military interests are located far away from U.S. shores. Thus, mobility remains a crucial requirement for U.S. military forces. Without international respect for the freedoms of navigation and overflight set forth in the Convention, the exercise of U.S. forces’ mobility rights could be jeopardized. Continued failure to join the Convention could diminish U.S. influence and leadership in international ocean affairs, and could also undercut the ability to resist excessive maritime claims worldwide.

Historically, the nation’s security has depended upon its ability to conduct military operations on, over, and under the world’s oceans. The best guarantee that this access to the oceans will continue in the years ahead is for the United States to become a party to the Law of the Sea Convention.

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