It happens that Secretary Panetta’s enthusiasm for the Law of the Sea Treaty tracks with Team Obama’s public efforts to low-ball the dangers posed by China’s increasingly aggressive behavior towards our Asian friends and allies, and its growing capacity to act coercively due to its growing military capabilities. He and, surprisingly, even senior Navy and other military officers who should know better seem to think that if only the United States were a party to LOST, international law would tame the Chinese dragon.
As one of the nation’s most astute China hands, Gordon Chang, noted recently in his column at World Affairs Journal : “Although Beijing ratified the [LOST] pact in June 1996, it continues to issue maps claiming the entire South China Sea. That claim is, among other things, incompatible with the treaty’s rules. It’s no wonder Beijing notified the UN in 2006 that it would not accept international arbitration of its sovereignty claims.”
Just as common sense argues for using bilateral or, at most, five-party forums to establish arrangements governing the Arctic Ocean’s resources, it strongly militates against the United States allowing itself to be bound to a treaty whose core provisions (i.e., those governing limitations on territorial claims and mandatory dispute resolutions) are already being serially violated by Communist China.
On May 9th, Secretary Panetta nonetheless asserted that “By moving off the sidelines, by sitting at the table of nations that have acceded to this treaty, we can defend our interests, we can lead the discussions, we will be able to influence those treaty bodies that develop and interpret the Law of the Sea.” That is simply not so if, as is true of the LOST’s various institutions, we would have but one seat among many, and no certainty that we can decisively “influence bodies that develop and interpret the law of the Sea.”
In fact, thanks to the rigged-game nature of those institutions, such bodies can be relied upon to hamstring us – by, for example, applying environmental regulations over which we have no control to our Navy’s anti-submarine warfare exercises and our domestic emissions into inland air and water that migrates to the international oceans.
Meanwhile, the Chinese will get away with choosing which rules they will abide by and which they won’t. Mr. Chang puts it this way: “[China] is…a signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, but remains a notorious nuclear proliferator, and it is a member of the World Trade Organization, yet brazenly disregards its trade obligations. And UN sanctions? China openly violates those too, even though it is one of the five permanent members of the Security Council.”
In short, the Obama administration wants Senators to suspend common sense and ignore real and legitimate concerns about the deleterious impact of the Law of the Sea Treaty on our sovereignty, economic interests and potentially even the national security. Will 34 Senators have enough common sense to just say “No”?
Frank Gaffney Jr. is the founder and president of the Center for Security Policy and author of War Footing: 10 Steps America Must Take to Prevail in the War for the Free World .
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