Maui News

US Sen. Hirono Co-Introduces Resolution To Ratify UN Convention on Law of the Sea

May 18, 2021, 2:38 PM HST
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US Senators Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Tim Kaine (D-VA) introduced a resolution calling for the Senate to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

UNCLOS, which has been ratified by 166 nations and the European Union, details the rights and responsibilities of countries regarding the world’s oceans, including guidelines for businesses and the management of marine natural resources. US Representatives Joe Courtney (D-CN) and Don Young (R-AK) introduced a similar resolution in the House of Representatives last month.

“Our world faces the evolving challenges of those seeking to prevent international freedom of navigation across the world, including in the Strait of Hormuz, the South China Sea, the Arctic and the Black Sea,” said Sen. Hirono, Chair of the Senate Seapower Subcommittee. “It is time for the United States to become party to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which provides a legal framework to protect the right of free passage through territorial seas.

“I join Senator Murkowski and Senator Kaine in calling for the long-overdue ratification of UNCLOS, because the United States should play an active role in decisions that impact Hawaiʻi and the ocean around us.”

The United States signed UNCLOS on July 29, 1994, but the US Senate has not yet voted to ratify the treaty, despite urging from environmental, scientific, labor and industry organizations. Senators Hirono and Murkowski, along with Representatives Courtney and Young, also called for the Senate to ratify UNCLOS in 2019.

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The full text of the Senate resolution can be found here.

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“The treaty provides immense value to the U.S., helping to avoid conflict by resolving issues diplomatically and through litigation rather than relying on customary law and military presence,” Sen. Murkowski said. “In the South China Sea, the treaty would enable us to contest unlawful Chinese claims through an international tribunal rather than military escalation and dangerous freedom of navigation operations prone to miscalculation. In the Arctic, the treaty would allow us to resolve territorial disputes of continental shelf claims as we see more access in a region that up to this point in time has been inaccessible. But, without ratification, the U.S. lacks a seat at the table for these negotiations.” 

Sen. Kaine said: “The Senate’s failure to ratify UNCLOS places the United States at a disadvantage when dealing with threats to our national security and commerce, particularly by China in the South China Sea. This resolution rightfully underscores the urgent need for the Senate to finally approve the Convention, and the broad support among military leaders and the business community for ratification. I will continue to engage with the Biden administration and my colleagues on the Foreign Relations Committee to make progress on this vital issue.” 

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