The president continues to support the pending Law of the Sea Treaty, but a spokeswoman isn’t going to speculate on how it would have affected critical U.S. operations on the sea had it been adopted earlier.
The issue was resurrected recently in the U.S. Senate at President Bush’s urging even though critics making up a wide-ranging chorus have concluded it would grant the United Nations control of 70 percent of the planet under its oceans, and undermine U.S. sovereignty.
The plan recently was approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on a 17-4 vote, and now must go before the full Senate.
Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., has called it, “U.N. on steroids,” and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee has concluded it is “the dumbest thing we’ve ever done. It’s like taking our sovereignty and handing it over to some international tribunal. What’s wrong with us?”
The affirmation of Bush’s position came from White House spokeswoman Dana Perino, who responded to a question from Les Kinsolving, WND’s White House correspondent. He asked. “How does the president react to the fact that while he supports the Law of the Sea Treaty, all the leading Republican candidates for president now have announced they oppose it?”
“The president’s position is very clear. The Defense Department and the State Department have been to Capitol Hill to help explain why this Law of the Sea Treaty makes sense. The president’s position on the Law of the Sea is clear. And presidential candidates are going to make their own decisions,” she said.
“Does the president believe that had we been subject to the Law of the Sea Treaty, that President Kennedy could have quarantined Cuba with the U.S. Navy, that President Ford could have used the Navy to rescue the Mayaguez, and President Reagan could have sent a Navy carrier force to defy Gadhafi of Libya in the Gulf..?” Kinsolving asked.
“I always avoid hypotheticals for the future; I’m going to avoid them for past scenarios as well,” she said.
One day earlier, she had responded similarly.
“The president is supportive of the treaty, and so is our military and our State Department. And we have testified on Capitol Hill multiple times about it,” she said. “I understand that there are concerns, but we believe that those have been addressed.”
This is not the first time LOST has come up. International negotiators drafted it in 1982 in an attempt to establish a comprehensive legal regime for international management of the seas and their resources. President Ronald Reagan, however, refused to sign LOST because he concluded the treaty doesn’t serve U.S. interests.
Sen. John McCain, R-Az., also has opposed the idea. “I do worry a lot about American sovereignty aspects of it,” he said. “I would probably vote against it in its present form.”
Former Sen. Fred Thompson added his concerns over the treaty’s threat to the U.S. He said it “gives a U.N.-affiliated organization far too much authority over U.S. interests in international waters.”
U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., said it is imperative that the U.S. “not surrender decision making power for military navigation or resource extraction, especially in this age of terrorism with technology and weapons proliferation. And adding a new set of U.N. bureaucrats with license to tax and adjudicate disputes is the last thing this country needs.”
Huckabee was a little more pointed. “The Law of the Sea Treaty essentially would say that the United States would give up certain controls of its territorial waters, it would give up its sovereign understanding of what it can do within its own seas both at the surface and within the depths, and that we would virtually hand ourselves over to an international body of justice.”
U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., has taken a similar position.
In 1994, President Clinton signed a revised version of the treaty and forwarded it to the Senate. The record shows the Senate was not convinced the 1994 changes corrected the problems, and it has deferred action on the treaty ever since.
The Heritage Foundation warns the treaty would have unintended consequences for U.S. interests – including a threat to sovereignty.
The conservative think tank says “bureaucracies established by multilateral treaties often lack the transparency and accountability necessary to ensure that they are untainted by corruption, mismanagement or inappropriate claims of authority. The LOST bureaucracy is called the International Seabed Authority Secretariat, which has a strong incentive to enhance its own authority at the expense of state sovereignty.”
“For example, this treaty would impose taxes on U.S. companies engaged in extracting resources from the ocean floor,” wrote Heritage fellows Baker Spring and Brett D. Schaefer. “This would give the treaty’s secretariat an independent revenue stream that would remove a key check on its authority. After all, once a bureaucracy has its own source of funding, it needs answer only to itself.”
“The United States should be wary of joining sweeping multilateral treaties negotiated under the auspices of the United Nations,” say Spring and Schaefer of Heritage. “Specifically, the benefit to U.S. national interests should be indisputable and clearly outweigh the predictable negative consequences of ratification.”
In the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing recently, Bush administration officials were repeatedly embarrassed by tough questioning from Sen. David Vitter, R-La., who also has led opposition to ratification.
For instance, Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte testified the U.N. body established by the treaty has “no jurisdiction over marine pollution disputes involving land-based sources.”
“Why is there a section entitled pollution from land-based sources?” questioned Vitter.
Vitter also questioned who decides what is considered military activity under the treaty.
“We will decide that. We consider that within our sovereign prerogative,” said Negroponte.
“Where does the treaty say that we decide that and an arbitral body does not decide that?” questioned Vitter.
Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England answered: “My understanding – and I’ll ask my lawyer behind me – that that’s in the treaty that we make that determination and that’s not subject to review by anyone else.”
“It’s not in the treaty because I point to Article 298 1b where it simply says disputes concerning military activities are not subject to dispute resolution,” explained Vitter. “But it doesn’t say who decides what is and what is not a military activity.”
England conceded the point.
The proposal would establish rules governing the uses of the of the world’s oceans – treating waters more than 200 nautical miles off coasts as the purview of a new international U.N. bureaucracy, the International Seabed Authority
The ISA would have the authority to set production controls for ocean mining, drilling and fishing, regulate ocean exploration, issue permits and settle disputes in its own new “court.”
Companies seeking to mine or fish would be required to apply for a permit, paying a royalty fee.
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