Thursday, May 24, 2012
U.S.: Ratification of the Law of the Sea, what does it mean for Greece?
May 19, 2012 | Filed under: Featured News,Geopolitics
Top U.S. defense leaders asked the Senate to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), because any further delay in the ratification by the U.S. side costs in geo-economic and geopolitical level.
The UNCLOS treaty which is the result of the third session of the UN on the issue (UNCLOS III), and took place from 1973 to 1982 and was signed at Montego Bay, Jamaica among other things provides for the adoption of the institution of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). This treaty has been active since 1994 and despite the fact that it was signed by the U.S., the Senate has not yet ratified it.
So far a small group of Republicans oppose the ratification of the treaty on the grounds that the U.S. will surrender sovereignty to hydrocarbons found in American continental shelf. According to the Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta, the ratification is supported by major U.S. industries, oil, energy, shipbuilding, shipping, and communications companies.
L. Panetta emphasized that the industry believes that the UNCLOS provides the legal framework of stability for a prospective business environment and the same applies to the field of national security.
Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that the adoption of UNCLOS in fact assists the U.S. strategic goals in areas such as Asia, particularly in the context of China’s naval deterrence in the region. According to the U.S. official the treaty allows for a strong naval presence in the South China Sea.
By opposing the treaty, the U.S. are losing “credibility” because, as noted by L. Panetta “how can we argue that other nations must abide by international rules when we haven’t officially accepted those rules ourselves?”.
In addition, this treaty will help, a maritime nation like the U.S., enforce sea lanes, which is a priority for Washington specifically in the area of the Strait of Hormuz, which Iran has threatened to block. According to Panetta, the ratification of the treaty will allow the U.S. to strengthen the feeling of freedom of navigation and would “isolate Iran, as one of the few remaining non-parties to the convention.”
In case of non-ratification of the treaty, the U.S. will continue to operate in the seas of the world based on customary international law, which can change to their own detriment. Customary law is used as a tool by foreign countries which at times seek to obstruct the free navigation, so the big victim are aircraft carriers and ships of the largest naval force in the world, i.e. the USA.
Finally, L. Panetta added that the adoption of UNCLOS would allow the U.S. to increase the legal and economic control over a huge area of 200 nautical miles from its shores.
As it can be understood, this development could be crucial to the U.S. policy towards what is happening in the Eastern Mediterranean and dictate a policy to be followed in our region. As rightly emphasized by L. Panetta it is not possible to push countries around the world to abide to the international law, while the U.S. are not adopting it.
So the U.S. may be primarily interested in Southeast Asia, due to China’s increasing naval presence which has developed an ambitious naval strategy, including the construction of aircraft carriers, but the fact is that this development will also affect the Eastern Mediterranean which hosts not China, but a country that thinks it can behave like… China, namely Turkey.
From our side we should underline that Greece – the largest maritime trading power on the planet – has every interest in supporting these developments in the U.S. – the largest naval military power in the world – for a range of geopolitical, geo-economic and energy reasons.
The issue of the EEZ is not a “fashion” and / or “populism” as some of its opponents claim in Greece. There is a developing favorable situation for the Greek national interests in the Eastern Mediterranean where the exploitation of hydrocarbon resources is a part – at least – of the solution to the economic problem of the country, and no one in Greece should jeopardize these developments.