- The Washington Times - Monday, July 2, 2007

Bernard H. Oxman is a professor at the Miami University School of Law in Coral Gables, Fla., a vice president of the American Society of International Law and a member of the U.S. delegation from 1973 to 1982 that negotiated the Law of the Sea pact. He answered questions from reporter David R. Sands on the upcoming battle over the treaty.

Question: Does the Law of the Sea treaty raise legitimate concerns about sovereignty and overreaching by the United Nations?

Answer: No. The deep-seabed mining provisions have been fixed in a manner directly responsive to each of the concerns raised by President Reagan. The convention enhances the ability of the United States to protect its sovereignty in the same way it has done so since the birth of the republic, namely by maintaining and deploying its armed forces by sea to respond to any threat to our interests in any part of the world, long before that threat reaches our shores. It is the erosion of the global navigational rights and freedoms protected by the convention that would pose a grave threat to national security and national sovereignty.

Q: Should conservatives support the treaty?

A: Absolutely. President Nixon launched the negotiations in the expectation that a globally ratified Law of the Sea Convention would best protect our permanent security interests in global mobility and our long-range economic interests in a stable and predictable regime for the movement of global trade and for the exploration and exploitation of ocean resources. President Reagan’s embrace of the bulk of the convention confirms that the effort launched by President Nixon succeeded. President George H.W. Bush was right to launch the informal negotiations that led to the effective amendment of the deep-seabed mining regime in response to President Reagan’s concerns. … President George W. Bush is absolutely right to conclude that we must act now to become part of the process that consolidates our achievements in the convention and enhances our ability to shape its future from the inside.

Q: Would we be any worse off than we are now if the Senate does not ratify the treaty?

A: We would be much worse off. International law is of greatest use to us in the far reaches of the sea when it induces other countries to accept the legitimacy of our actions even when they disagree with our objectives or policies. Unilateral pronouncements of the content of international law cannot achieve that objective. If we let the convention slip through our hands … we would lose our last best chance to solidify the law of the sea around a basic text that protects our long-range security and economic interests, and to control the future evolution of the world’s understanding of that text.

It would not be possible in the foreseeable future to negotiate a new, globally ratified convention on the law of the sea anywhere near as favorable to U.S. interests. And if we allow other countries to control the evolution and amendment of the existing convention without our input, our interests will be adversely affected whether we like it or not.

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