- The Washington Times - Monday, March 28, 2005

Law of the Sea Treaty debated

David B. Rivkin Jr. and Lee A. Casey are correct that most reasons prompting President Reagan to reject the Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST) remain present (“Ratifying sea treaty a mistake,” Op-Ed, Friday).

Further, it is indeed inescapable that LOST is an offering in the “look how internationalist we are” reparations campaign that has followed President Bush’s withdrawal from the International Criminal Court and refusal, like President Clinton, to submit the Kyoto Protocol for Senate ratification (though a vote rejecting that signed treaty is sorely needed).

One additional point is crucial to any assessment of LOST’s threat to U.S. sovereignty. That is the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, which, in already hearing cases, helpfully provides a glimpse of the United States’ future should we ratify this abhorrence.

This international court has already asserted, in the Mox case involving a U.K. nuclear plant, that it will determine its own competence, or scope and jurisdiction, even in the face of other extant treaties designed to address the issue at hand.

For example, LOST purports, through its Part XII, “Protection and Preservation of the Marine Environment,” to govern claims of rising sea levels and melting ice caps. Although, of course, this is not an appropriate forum to assess the scientific validity of such predictions, the LOST tribunal inarguably provides the two elements lacking in the greens’ Kyoto dream: an enforcement mechanism and jurisdiction over the United States.

One thing is clear, given that, by LOST’s own terms, it is not necessary that the United States ratify Kyoto to be subject under this unaccountable court to Kyoto’s object and purpose: Whatever reasons drove President Bush to do the right thing on the ICC and Kyoto also mandate that he replicate those feats and maintain Mr. Reagan’s rejection of the Law of the Sea Treaty.


Senior fellow

Competitive Enterprise Institute


Recent articles (“Skeptical Senate eyes sea treaty,” World, March 7, “Law of the Sea Treaty” Op-Ed, March 16 and “Ratifying sea treaty a mistake,” Op-Ed, March 25) betray a dismayingly myopic discussion of an issue of critical significance — the long-delayed U.S. accession to the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) — and the potential for enhancing the good order of the “oceanic commons” they deride. By dredging up failed arguments about potential implications of “flawed” treaty elements that might be the bane of U.S. self-interests, coupled with a distrust of any international solution, they ignore the deep and broad support for the treaty in the White House and the Congress, in both major parties, as well as the more general benefits of the convention:

• The Clinton administration submitted the convention to the Senate for its advice and consent, stating, “Early adherence by the United States to the Convention and the Agreement is important to maintain a stable legal regime for all uses of the sea.”

• The George W. Bush White House has strongly supported UNCLOS; its ambassador to the United Nations declared in November 2001, “the administration of President George W. Bush supports accession of the United States to the Convention.”

• The White House spearheaded a negotiating initiative that addressed concerns with the convention (including those from the first Reagan administration about the International Seabed Authority) and resulted in the 1994 implementing agreement.

• In October 2003, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 19-0 to send the convention to the full Senate.

• In 2004, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Richard Myers, called UNCLOS a “top national-security priority.”

• In September 2004, the U.S. Commission on Oceans Policy recommended, “The United States of America immediately accede to the United Nations Law of the Sea Convention. Time is of the essence if the United States is to maintain its leadership role in ocean and coastal activities.”

n In December 2004 President Bush responded: “As a matter of national security, economic self-interest, and international leadership, the Bush administration is strongly committed to U.S. accession to the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea.”

The evolving U.S. strategic paradigm, dependent as it is on littoral operations from the sea against the shore, has made accession to the convention even more compelling. U.S. military strategy, doctrine and operations are crucially dependent on the navigation rights, flexibility and mobility conferred by the convention.

To be sure, disputes might still arise, but the legal standing of the United States, particularly in protecting important navigation rights through straits and other international waterways, is much more enhanced with than without UNCLOS.

UNCLOS is more than just another treaty. With 148 parties, it is the largest single international negotiating project ever. It has founded a new era on, under and above the world’s oceans that clarifies, not muddies, important rights, responsibilities, and privileges.

In some aspects, customary law has indeed been incorporated and as such is now explicitly positive, conventional law, with more global force than previously the case. And, it signals a commitment to the rule of law and a basis for the orderly conduct of affairs among nations: a commitment that the United States must sustain if it is to succeed in other critical endeavors, such as the global war on terrorism.

In short, by refusing to accede to UNCLOS, the United States remains the “odd man out” and risks losing vital credibility among friends and partners worldwide — a challenge that Karen Hughes, in her new role at the State Department, will add to an already burgeoning portfolio.


Director of the Decision Support Group

Space and Naval Warfare

Systems Center

San Diego


Group Vice President

National Security Programs

Anteon Corp.

Severna Park, Md.

No ‘sweetheart deal’ for Wal-Mart

The story “Wal-Mart pays $11 million to settle alien case” (Page 1, March 19) could not be more wrong in suggesting that the U.S. Department of Labor’s enforcement settlement against Wal-Mart was somehow a “sweetheart deal” for the company.

The Labor Department not only hit Wal-Mart with $135,540 in fines for past child labor violations — almost twice as high as the 2004 average penalty in such cases — it also required Wal-Mart to take specific actions to protect young workers in every one of its stores.

It is completely false to say that Wal-Mart got some special deal in giving it a 15-day advance notice of inspection — time to hide child labor violations. Wal-Mart must immediately remedy any child labor violations that may put young workers at risk, and the company will still be held accountable for such violations.

In fact, most employers — and unions — are given advance notice of an inquiry, so that they can assemble the necessary documents and personnel for review. Even with complaint-driven audits of union finances, for example, it is not unusual for a large union to be given 30 days or more to prepare. This isn’t for the benefit of the employer or union, but to help our investigators do their work.

Anyone who thinks that Wal-Mart, or any other employer or union, would use the notice period to sweep evidence under the rug doesn’t understand the law. The fact is companies and unions have no incentive to try to hide the evidence, because the penalty for most labor law violations is a civil fine, while hiding or altering evidence of such misconduct is subject to federal criminal sanctions — including possible jail time.

The Department of Labor takes seriously its responsibility to protect workers — especially young workers. This administration has set new records in the enforcement of health and safety, pension security and wage laws on behalf of American workers, and supports legislation to increase penalties for child labor violations.


Assistant secretary for employment standards

U.S. Department of Labor


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