A formidable 24-star military panel appeared before a Senate committee Thursday in support of ratifying the Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST), but former U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld took a strong counterposition.
Rumsfeld, appearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, raised concerns over royalties.
“I do not believe the United States should endorse a treaty that makes it a legal obligation for productive countries to pay royalties to less-productive countries, based on rhetoric about the common heritage of mankind,” he told the hearing.
Two generals and four admirals spoke in favor of the treaty, including the chief of naval operations and the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. They told the Senate committee that failure to sign the treaty was limiting U.S. options in dealing with increasing maritime challenges.
“In short, it preserves what we have and it gives us yet another tool to engage any nation that would threaten our maritime interests,” said Navy Adm. James “Sandy” Winnefeld Jr., vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“We do not want to wait until this becomes a crisis for us,” he added.
Rumsfeld and several senators have raised concerns that signing the treaty would impose royalties and environmental fees, and result in a loss of sovereignty, but Winnefeld countered, saying, “If anything, it further protects our sovereignty in this regard, well before we would have to resort to any use of force.”
The United States remains the only major nation that has not signed the treaty, which was initiated in 1982 and now has 162 signatories.
Navy Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, commander of U.S. Pacific Command, said competing claims among a number of coastal countries were increasing in frequency and intensity. The treaty would help established a rule-based approach to negotiate the issues.“Some of these claims, if left unchallenged, would put us at risk, our operational rights, and freedoms in key areas of the Asia-Pacific,” he said.
Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass) and top Republican, Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, are hoping to ratify the Law of the Sea Treaty, but have determined that it will not be rushed before the November elections.
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