Prospects of a Paradigm Shift in the American Policy Towards UN Convention on the Law of the Sea: Potential Implications
21 Pages Posted: 17 Jun 2011
Date Written: April 15, 2011
Law of the Sea, codified in the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), has always attracted American attention for its implications on strategic maritime issues. Yet the United States has remained resistant to becoming a party to this Convention to safeguard its peculiar national interests. However, contemporary ocean developments, particularly Arctic Climate Change, have put the US in a weaker position to advance U.S. interests because of its position as a non-Party to the Convention. Being a non-party, US can not participate in the Convention-related mechanisms and institutions which are entrusted to apply, interpret, and develop the provisions of the Convention. This has further exacerbated the inability of the US to utilize the Convention’s procedures to claim an extended continental shelf in the Arctic region. These developments have surged US interest in reconsidering ratification of the UNCLOS. Therefore, once considered dead in the water, the 1982 UNCLOS may now be on the threshold of U.S. Senate ratification.
This paper examines various factors behind the prospective changes in American ocean policy and its potential implications. It also reviews the US ocean policy and the ratification process. A careful analysis of these processes and policy reveals that US accession to the LOS Convention remains highly politicized because certain provisions of the Convention impinges upon the US national security needs at the sea, which plays a major role in shaping the traditional US ocean policy. Therefore, the prospects of US accession to the LOS Convention are contingent upon a paradigm shift in US ocean policy.
Keywords: UNCLOS, US ocean policy, national interests, climate change, arctic, accession
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