The missing facts on Law of the Sea Treaty
George F. Will’s June 24 op-ed column on the Law of the Sea Treaty, “The LOST sinkhole,” was long on rather startling opinions (Donald Rumsfeld is more persuasive than George Shultz on international issues, and the United States needs to revert to the era of gunboat diplomacy) and short on facts about the treaty, which established rights and limits of maritime nations.
One fact is that President Reagan bound the United States by executive order to the parts of the treaty with which he agreed and sought to renegotiate the things he did not like. Negotiations to fix all the issues Reagan objected to were successfully concluded in the mid-1990s, which is why all former Republican secretaries of state now support the treaty’s ratification by the Senate. Among the improvements to the treaty is the United States’ veto power over the work of the International Seabed Authority (it is the only state with such power).
Another fact is that the seabed authority is run by state parties to the treaty, not by the United Nations. And Mr. Will dismissed the fact that the current and former chairmen of the chiefs of staff, the current and former chiefs of naval operations and the current and former commandants of the Coast Guardsupport the treaty’s ratification by saying we need better admirals and more ships.
Mr. Will also brushed aside the strong support for the treaty by a broad cross-section of U.S. industry. Mr. Will is entitled to his opinions, but his readers deserve more facts.
Kenneth C. Brill, Bethesda
The writer was principal deputy assistant secretary and acting assistant secretary for the State Department’s Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, which oversees U.S. diplomacy on the Law of the Sea, from 1999 to 2001.