Obama calls on US Senate to ratify UNCLOS
Jose Katigbak (The Philippine Star) - May 30, 2014 - 1:00am

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama on Wednesday criticized the US Senate for its continued failure to ratify the Law of the Sea Convention, saying “we cannot exempt ourselves from the rules that apply to everyone.”

“It’s a lot harder to call on China to resolve its maritime disputes under the Law of the Sea Convention when the United States Senate has refused to ratify it – despite the repeated insistence of our top military leaders that the treaty advances our national security,” Obama said in a commencement address to graduates at the US Military Academy in West Point, New York.

He said China’s economic rise and military reach worried its neighbors, particularly the Philippines and Vietnam, who have claims to parts of the South China Sea which Beijing asserts is almost exclusively its own.

Laying out a broad vision of America’s role abroad, Obama said in the Asia Pacific “we are supporting Southeast Asian nations as they negotiate a code of conduct with China on the South China Sea and are working to resolve territorial and maritime disputes through international law.”

Obama said the US was an indispensable and exceptional nation.

“That has been true for the century passed and will likely be true for the century to come,” he said.

He said when disasters occur – as when the Philippines was hit by Super Typhoon Yolanda last year – it is America that takes the lead in assisting people.

It was the second time in a week that a US leader mentioned the devastation wrought by Typhoon Yolanda in Tacloban. Secretary of State John Kerry, in his own commencement address to graduates of Yale, said the US went to the assistance of typhoon victims without being asked and without asking for anything in return.

Many senators and military analysts believe US accession to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) will not resolve the conflicting claims by a number of countries to barren islands, reefs, shoals and coral outcrops in the oil-and-gas rich South China Sea.

Also UNCLOS has provisions that could seriously interfere with legitimate US naval operations by allowing other nations to avail themselves of the treaty’s mandatory dispute-resolution mechanisms.

Besides, they point out that China is a party to UNCLOS but nonetheless is the source of much of the maritime problems in the region.

At a background briefing after Obama’s West Point address, a senior administration official said the US would like to see China abide by basic international rules of the road in its conduct with its neighbors. The rules should apply to everyone, the official said.

“With respect to the Law of the Sea, the President made very clear that part of how the United States shows our own commitment to those rules and norms is by upholding them ourselves,” the official said.

“We act consistent with the Convention on the Law of the Sea, but it would send an important message for the Senate to ratify it, because that is the means by which we want to see disputes resolved,” he added.

 

ASIA PACIFIC CHINA LAW OF THE SEA LAW OF THE SEA CONVENTION MILITARY ACADEMY NEW YORK OBAMA SEA SOUTH CHINA SEA WEST POINT
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