Murkowski and Colleagues Push for Oceans Treaty Ratification

Senator Lisa Murkowski, a Republican from Alaska, has teamed up with several colleagues to make a third attempt to secure the ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

She is sponsoring a resolution that urges the Senate to ratify the treaty, establishing a legal framework for the management of the world’s oceans and ocean resources. Alongside Senators Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Tim Kaine (D-Virginia), Murkowski formally introduced the resolution on the 29th anniversary of the treaty’s effective date.

Murkowski expressed concern that the lack of ratification is allowing other nations, including Russia and China, to exert control over the oceans. In a statement, she emphasized that delaying ratification enables other countries to shape the agenda of the maritime domain, from seabed mining to critical subsea infrastructure.

According to Murkowski, ratifying the treaty is crucial for preventing China’s illegal territorial advances in the South China Sea and advancing U.S. interests in the Arctic. She stressed the importance of the United States not just participating in global discussions but actively contributing to shaping future rules.

Murkowski has consistently argued that the absence of Senate ratification hampers U.S. efforts in the Arctic. It impedes full participation in Arctic Council decisions on ocean policy and responding to the increasing presence of Russia and China in the Arctic region.

During her speech at the Arctic Circle conference in Iceland last month, Murkowski highlighted the potential consequences of not approving the Law of the Sea treaty. She pointed out that while the United States may already adhere to its provisions, the lack of official approval could result in the loss of valuable territory and resources.

Murkowski noted Russia’s expanded military operations in the Arctic, including aggressive territorial claims beyond its continental shelf, and China’s non-compliance with international Polar Code safety standards in Arctic waters.

This marks the third attempt by Murkowski and her colleagues to push for ratification. The resolution has garnered support from five cosponsors: Senators Angus King (I-Maine), Jacky Rosen (D-Nevada), Bill Cassidy (R-Louisiana), Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island).

Opponents of ratification, primarily Republicans, have long argued that the treaty would restrict U.S. rights. In 1982, President Ronald Reagan refused to sign it, citing concerns about limitations on deep-sea mining. Critics, including the Heritage Foundation, contend that the treaty imposes excessive environmental restrictions on U.S. marine activities, may expose the nation to climate change lawsuits, and undermines national sovereignty. The ratification process necessitates the approval of two-thirds of the U.S. Senate.


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