- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 10, 2005

When Sen. John Kerry declared in the last presidential campaign that U.S. foreign policy needed to pass a “global test” before it could be carried out, the Bush administration correctly denounced and derided him. America’s national security is too important, President Bush explained, to put in the hands of the United Nations Security Council.

The administration has also argued that the fate of American servicemen is too important to entrust to a global tribunal in the form of the International Criminal Court.

But at the other end of the spectrum, the Bush administration, like others before it, is perfectly happy to allow the U.N.’s World Trade Organization to effectively dictate America’s international commerce.

So what is the administration’s policy on the U.N.’s Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST), which would hand over control of the seas and oceans to yet another international institution of the United Nations? There is speculation Mr. Bush himself opposes the treaty, but all evidence points to the contrary.

During October 2003 Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings, William Taft, a State Department legal adviser, testified the Bush administration “recommends that the Senate give its advice and consent to accession to the convention and ratification of the agreement” because the treaty “represents the highest priority of U.S. international oceans policy.”

Mark Esper, defense deputy assistant secretary for negotiation policy, echoed those comments, saying the administration “strongly supports” the Law of the Sea Treaty.

In her recent confirmation hearing for secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice was asked by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Dick Lugar if the administration favors ratification of the Law of the Sea Treaty. The president, Miss Rice said, “would certainly like to see it pass as soon as possible … and we very much want to see it go into force.”

The president needs to take another look at this document, which was rejected by Ronald Reagan. During his presidency, Mr. Bush has displayed a healthy skepticism about the U.N.’s ability to manage complex programs. It would be a major setback to allow the Senate to ratify this treaty, which would violate American sovereignty and damage national security.

“The sovereignty over the territorial sea is exercised subject to this convention,” the document states in Article 2, thus giving the U.N. control of seas, oceans and their natural resources.

Under the treaty, U.S. national security would take a back seat to naive U.N. officials who can’t define terrorism and are unwilling to confront evil and danger in the world.

U.S. naval vessels could not interdict, on the high seas, ships under the control of terrorists or carrying weapons of mass destruction, or both. Article 95 states that “warships on the high seas have complete immunity from the jurisdiction of any state.” The treaty, in Article 29, fails to account for new terrorist threats by narrowly defining a warship as only “belonging to the armed forces of a state … under the command of an officer duly commissioned by the government of the state … and manned by a crew which is under regular armed forces discipline.” This is a gold-plated invitation for terrorists to hijack ships in international waters.

The LOST also created the International Seabed Authority (ISA) which adjudicates disputes among parties, has taxing power on members states and contractors, forces private mining and fishing companies to acquire ISA permits at hefty prices and collects royalties from their successful acquisitions.

Satya Nandan, secretary-general of the International Seabed Authority, spoke to the U.N. General Assembly in November, declaring the Law of the Sea Treaty a “remarkable success” on its 10th anniversary because it has “defined the rights and duties” of nations on maritime issues and “provided a sound legal framework for states to conduct activities in the oceans.”

The Law of the Sea Treaty, Mr. Nandan said, “is widely seen by states, international organizations and judicial bodies as the primary source of the international law of the sea.”

President Bush showed great courage when he “unsigned” the treaty creating the International Criminal Court. His actions sent a message to the world that the United States would not subject its citizens to the jurisprudence of international ambulance chasers. He should do the same on the U.N.’s Law of the Sea Treaty. The treaty would violate American sovereignty, hurt national security, stifle America’s economy and exploration for natural resources in the sea and allow a U.N. agency to impose taxes and fees on American industry.

For these reasons and more, the Law of the Sea Treaty should be sliced, gutted and fed to the sharks.

Thomas P. Kilgannon is president of Freedom Alliance, an organization dedicated to preserving U.S. sovereignty.

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