Lost All Sense -- Problems At Sea

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U.S. Senator Jon Kyl

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee recently approved a troubling treaty called the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, also known as the Law of the Sea Treaty or LOST.If ratified by the whole Senate, the treaty could have dangerous consequences to our economy, national security, and sovereignty.

The 300-page treaty, which was first written 25 years ago, purports to create "a structure for the governance and protection of all of the sea, including the airspace above and the seabed and subsoil below."In fact, it declares the ocean floor "the common heritage of mankind" and would essentially put it under U.N. jurisdiction for "the benefit of mankind as a whole."

For instance, if ratified, the treaty would force U.S. companies -- for the first time ever -- to pay revenue-sharing contributions (i.e. taxes) to an international body (the International Seabed Authority) for commercial activities it conducts on the seabed.There are no taxation limits or U.S. oversight mechanisms, and many consider it another example of the United Nations penalizing developed countries for the benefit of less-developed nations.

There are real concerns that the treaty would hamper U.S. and allied efforts to interdict dangerous shipments of weapons of mass destruction, as part of our current Proliferation Security Initiative.

Under this initiative, the U.S. has proliferation-related high-seas interdiction agreements with countries like Panama (which controls major waterways for international shipping).If the U.S. ratifies LOST, the legality of such seizures could then be decided by an international tribunal (under the auspices of the United Nations) created by the treaty.

Additionally, provisions of the treaty could restrict U.S. intelligence gathering and submarine activities. Although the treaty includes language exempting non-wartime "military activities" in international waters, it fails to define the term.

To clarify this language, the United States has proposed a condition for ratification that would allow the United States to define the term for itself; this would, however, amount to an exemption for signatories that is prohibited by the provisions of the treaty.As a result, the U.S. is faced with a "take it or leave it" choice, and if the treaty is ratified, a U.N.-controlled international tribunal would make the final decision on permissible U.S. naval activities.

It's clear that there are too many unanswered questions and consequences for the United States with this treaty. Therefore, I firmly oppose its ratification.

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