Thursday, January 17, 2008

US Citizens Seeking Thorough Congressional Review of UNCLOS Win Debate Against US Navy

U.N. Law of the Sea Treaty - Historic Step Forward or Historic Blunder?

Accessible on the Reserved Officers Association website, at:

Accessible on the ITSSD website, at:

Oct 17 200710:00 a.m.-11:30 a.m.

ROA Headquarters Minuteman Memorial BuildingSymposium Center, 4th Floor One Constitution Ave NEWashington, DC 20002Directions to ROA

Frank J. Gaffney, Jr., President - Center for Security Policy

Lawrence Kogan, President and CEO - Institute for Trade, Standards and Sustainable Development (ITSSD)

CAPT Patrick Neher, USN - Office of the Judge Advocate General.

Ashley Roach,Office of the Legal Adviser - U.S. State Department

On Thursday Oct 17th, 2007

The Defense Education Forum hosted a program on the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, abbreviated UNCLOS or LOST. UNCLOS was initially negotiated in the 1970's but in 1982 President Reagan vetoed the treaty. Now President Bush has urged the Senate to ratify the treaty and the Senate Foreign Affairs committee has held hearings in order to consider a vote and refer it to the Senate as a whole.

DEF brought together military, trade, legal, and political perspectives on LOST that represented both proponents and the opponents. CAPT Patrick Neher from the Navy's Office of the Judge Advocate General, is concerned about “locking in” the rights and responsibilities of the naval vessels upon the high seas. Currently the rules upon which we operate are customary and not within any code, law or treaty. Nations can easily make changes in their dealings that could hamper the United States ability to conduct necessary missions. In response to the charges that the military could be brought under legal restrictions from other nations, CAPT Neher pointed to the treaty provisions that allow exceptions for any military activities.

J. Ashley Roach from the State Department's Office of the Legal Adviser acted to counteract many of the misgivings of the treaties opponents. He was concerned about the United States' ability to access mineral resources if we continue to refuse to ratify the treaty. Mr. Roach pointed out the myriad of officials and organizations, including current and former Secretary of States, Defense, Homeland Security, Commerce, Interior, and military officials such as Commandants of the Coast Guard support the treaty.

Those that oppose the ratification were represented by Frank J. Gaffney, Jr., President - Center for Security Policy. Mr. Gaffney's perspective was from a larger geo-political perspective. Not only is he concerned that the Navy is misreading the treaty but he pointed to a larger pattern in international affairs where the United States is constantly out voted in U.N. bodies. He made the point that the treaty was supposedly fixed by passing a separate treaty but some nations that joined the first treaty have not joined the second. Ambiguity in the law was one of Mr. Gaffney's themes. This included the idea that many of our activities, such as marine research or contracted transports carrying military supplies, that has military applications but are not technically military activities. Mr. Gaffney called for more hearings by several committees that would give the treaty “the kind of scrutiny that it deserves”.

Lawrence Kogan, President and CEO - Institute for Trade, Standards and Sustainable Development (ITSSD), approached the debate from the perspective of trade, legal presidents, and the environment. Mr. Kogan made the point that European law is based upon the “precautionary principle”. This would require that decisions with the dispute resolution process be based upon the worse case scenario and therefor slow down or even stop development, research, and exploration. Especially troubling is the possible use of other environmental treaties that have been enacted to harm American business interests.

Both sides of the argument were eager for participants to read the treaty, and both sides believe that a reading would support their position.

In attendance were staff from several Senate offices and committees, Coast Guard, Navy and Marine officers. The Senate staff took the opportunity to ask questions of the panel. After the program many of the attendees and some panelists remained to further discuss the issue. A Navy JAG in attendance commented that this was one of the best forums on this issue that he had attended. ROA and the DEF are committed to providing such venues for open dialog about important national security issues.

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