Law of the Sea Treaty

Senate Floor Remarks by U.S. Senator James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.)

Mr. President, last Thursday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on the Law of the Sea Treaty, and will hold another this Thursday.  As Chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, I held a hearing in March 2004 on the treaty, and we were able to have some open discussion and debate. As the Senate again begins to consider this treaty, it will be important for my colleagues to understand the real dangers it poses to American sovereignty and security.
 
Proponents of the ratification of the Law of the Sea Treaty, or LOST, will tell you the treaty will be a great asset to the military by allowing our Navy the freedom of movement to and from any point on and under the ocean, unencumbered by the need to send requests to foreign governments for permission to enter territorial waters or to pass through straights.  While LOST does maintain that this is true, it is subject to several caveats.   Under the terms of the treaty, our naval warships must pass by the coast and not engage in any type of exercise, ground all aircraft, and negate the use of any defensive devices.  The issue of passage not only applies to ships but also to aircraft both commercial and military.  LOST regulates the activities of aircraft over territorial waters and over straights.  This is particularly disturbing because a treaty that is intended to govern the sea has now reached out to control airspace over the seas. 
 
Another issue of concern is the effect of LOST on the President’s Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), which is designed to combat the transfer of weapons of mass destruction.  Advocates of the treaty assure us that LOST in no way damages the effectiveness of PSI because countries that want to participate in these open ocean inspections, to assure that nuclear weapons are not being traded illegally, voluntarily sign onto the President’s PSI agreement.  However, under LOST, boarding a vessel is allowed only if it is suspected of piracy, engaging in slave trade, unauthorized broadcasting, or is not showing or is not willing to reveal its nationality.  Taken literally, as most countries will, a U.S. warship would not be allowed to stop a vessel with a shipment of nuclear energy materials if it is flying a state flag on purportedly legitimate business. 
 
LOST also creates a governing body known as the International Seabed Authority (ISA) to organize and control activities on the deep ocean floor in areas beyond national jurisdiction.  The ISA would regulate 70% of the Earth's surface—placing seabed mining, fishing rights, and oil exploration under control of a global bureaucracy. The ISA has the power to levy a global tax that would be paid directly to the ISA by companies seeking to mine the world's oceans.  LOST also creates a new global tax court to settle disputes that arise under the treaty.  This is an unprecedented action – the collection of taxes by an international body to fund its own research, as well as to redistribute the world’s wealth to developing nations.
 
Let me further describe how the ISA would regulate development.  In order to be granted mining rights by the ISA, the applicant must submit detailed plans and exploration research information along with annual fees in the millions of dollars. Additionally under LOST, should there be disputes among companies, American businesses that conduct deep seabed mining operations could find themselves subject to an international court system that would hold them accountable and liable for any infractions. 
 
LOST is a dangerous treaty that we need to reject.  This treaty hampers the operations of the Navy and it has the potential to hamper the efforts of PSI.  It would allow foreign vessels and warships passage rights into our territorial waters.  It creates regulation and taxation by an international body, and it presents a legal danger for American businesses through exposure to the international court system. 
 
These are only a few examples of the issues I have with the Law of the Sea Treaty, and I believe they highlight the fact that the Senate should not rush to accept it.  Instead, I would suggest that other committees of the Senate with jurisdiction over such issues as taxation, trade, resource development, and national security, conduct hearings into these issues so that Senators and the American public are fully aware of the implications of joining this treaty.