The Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star transits near the beginning of the ice edge in the Chukchi Sea north of Wainwright, Alaska, on Tuesday, July 16, 2013. The Coast Guard conducts annual Arctic operations to support scientific research and advance understanding of the region. But without ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, U.S. authority in the Arctic will be limited, Sen. Lisa Murkowski argues. (Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Mooers/U.S. Coast Guard)
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, has joined with several colleagues to make a third push for ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
Murkowski is sponsoring a resolution calling for Senate ratification of the treaty, which establishes a legal framework for management of the world’s oceans and ocean resources. She and the other lead sponsors, Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, and Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Virginia, formally introduced the resolution on Wednesday, the 29th anniversary of the date the treaty went into effect.
Murkowski said the lack of ratification is allowing other nations, including Russia and China, to assert control of the oceans.
“The longer we sit out, the longer the rest of the world will continue to set the agenda of maritime domain, from seabed mining to critical subsea infrastructure,” she said in a statement.
Ratifying the treaty will “help us keep China’s illegal territorial advances at bay” in the South China Sea and will advance U.S. interests in the maritime domain, notably in the Arctic, she said. “It is time for America to not just join the world at the table, but to make sure we are helping to set the rules going forward,” she said.
Murkowski has argued for years that lack of Senate ratification hurts U.S. efforts in the Arctic.
It makes it more difficult for the United States to participate fully in the Arctic Council decisions on ocean policy, and to respond to expanding Russian and Chinese presence in the Arctic, she has said.
Russia has expanded its military operations and facilities in the Arctic, and that nation is making aggressive territorial claims over a large swath of the Central Arctic Ocean beyond the Russian continental shelf.
China, meanwhile, is taking deliveries of Russian petroleum products in vessels that do not comply with international Polar Code safety standards as they travel through Arctic waters, Murkowski said in her speech.
And Chinese and Russian warships have been operating together in waters off Alaska’s Aleutian Islands.
Murkowski and some of her colleagues sponsored similar resolutions in the previous two congressional sessions.
The new resolution has five cosponsors: Sens. Angus King, I-Maine; Jacky Rosen, D-Nevada; Bill Cassidy, R-Louisiana; Chris Van Hollen, D-Maryland; and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-Rhode Island.
Opponents of ratification, largely Republicans, have argued for decades that the treaty would limit U.S. rights.
In 1982, President Ronald Reagan announced his refusal to sign it, arguing that it would restrict the nation’s ability to conduct deep-sea mining.
Since then, opponents such as the Heritage Foundation have argued that the treaty would impose too many environmental restrictions on U.S. marine activities, potentially expose the nation to lawsuits over climate change and generally undermine national sovereignty.
Treaty ratification requires approval of two-thirds of the U.S. Senate.
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