Vice Admiral (Retired) James W. Houck, Distinguished Scholar in Residence at Penn State Law and School of International Affairs, appeared before the Board of Directors of the Navy League of the United States on Friday, October 19th, to urge U.S. accession to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
“The Law of the Sea Convention is overwhelmingly in the best interest of the United States,” Houck told an audience that included 120 members of the Navy League Board of Directors, as well as former Virginia Senator and Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, John Warner. “The potential rewards of the treaty are enormous and the so-called risks have been overstated,” Houck noted. “The navigation provisions are superb and give the United States clarity that is critical in an evolving international legal and political climate. The Convention also gives us the only indisputable legal basis to move forward with our claims to the enormous resources of the extended continental shelf and deep seabed.”
The Navy League is comprised over 46,000 civilians around the world and works to educate Congress and the public about matters affecting the sea services, as well as sea services members and their families. The Navy League invited Professor Houck, as well as The Heritage Foundation’s
Steven Groves, to present the respective cases for and against joining the Convention. Groves argued that the Convention’s benefits can be realized without membership, which would only entangle the United States in unnecessary and costly international bureaucracy. Senator Warner also spoke in favor of U.S. accession.
After taking a lead drafting role, the United States declined to sign the Convention in 1982 because of objections to the Convention’s deep seabed mining provisions. The United States led a successful effort to overhaul the objectionable articles and President Clinton signed a modified agreement in 1994. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has twice voted the Convention favorably out of Committee (2003 and 2007), however, the Convention has never been voted on by the full Senate. To date, the Convention has been ratified by 163 nations and the European Union.