Thursday, January 17, 2008

State Department Legal Counsellor John Bellinger Washington Times, Letter to the Editor

October 31, 2007

LOST will benefit U.S.

Contrary to Ed Feulner's assertion ("They just don't get LOST," Commentary, Thursday), President Ronald Reagan declined to sign the Law of the Sea Convention in 1982 not because it would hurt American sovereignty, but because he objected to the treaty's deep seabed provisions.

Mr. Reagan considered that "most provisions of the draft convention are acceptable and consistent with United States interests." Far from "scuttling" the treaty, he directed U.S. officials to return to the negotiating table; he further declared that, if the problems with the deep seabed provisions could be rectified, "my administration will support ratification." Through successful diplomacy, the United States achieved a subsequent agreement in 1994 that fixed all the problems identified by Mr. Reagan. On that basis, other major maritime powers that had also objected to the original deep seabed mining provisions, including Britain and Japan, joined the agreement and are now reaping its benefits.

Mr. Feulner is also wrong that "environmental activists" would be empowered to enforce the Kyoto Protocol against us. The U.S. would not be committed to implement Kyoto standards. Also, if another country were to bring such a claim (and nongovernmental activists could not), there would be no jurisdiction. Regarding marine pollution from land, the treaty includes very general obligations to limit such pollution; however, as we have explained to the Senate, it does not provide for dispute settlement unless there are specified international standards applicable to the U.S., which there are not. Finally, as a non-self-executing treaty, the agreement would not provide for any private rights of action in U.S. courts.

Mr. Feulner is right in one respect: People need to read the treaty. If they do, they will see the treaty's enormous national security and economic advantages to the United States, including clear legal rights of navigation for our military through and over the world's oceans and economic sovereign rights over the enormous oil, gas and other resources on the U.S. continental shelf in the Arctic, the Gulf of Mexico and elsewhere. As Russia and other countries rush to stake their claims to Arctic resources, it would be folly for the Senate to follow Mr. Feulner's advice and give up sovereign rights to this vast wealth.


Legal Adviser

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