The commander of United States military forces in the Pacific has urged the US Senate to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
If it signed, the US would be in a "much stronger position to demand adherence to the rules contained in it," Navy Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III told the US Senate foreign relations committee Friday (Saturday in PHL). He briefed Pentagon reporters afterwards.
Locklear said that because the US is not a party to the UNCLOS, "Our challenges are less credible than they might otherwise be."
During recent visits of Philippine officials to the US-culminating with the visit of President Aquino this June-the US has urged countries disputing all or parts of the South China Sea to adhere to rules prescribing peaceful resolution of conflicting claims.
The UNCLOS treaty was opened for signature in December 1982 and took effect in November 1994, when 60 countries had signed.
The Pentagon noted in a news release on the US Department of Defense website that the US, "has not ratified the treaty, but the nation's military leaders have in recent months urged US accession to the agreement."
Locklear said he told the US Senate that UNCLOS "is essential to locking in a stable, legal framework for the maritime domain that is favorable to our national interest and preserves our access to this critical region."
He said competing maritime claims have become more numerous and contentious and that the UNCLOS "encourages peaceful resolution of these maritime disputes" through a rules-based approach.
Locklear said he will visit China soon to take up security issues. "I look forward to continuing our dialogue and to doing some visits," he added. "I plan to visit [China] within the next several weeks, at their invitation."
On the agenda of that visit are "military claims and all of the other issues that surround that," the US Navy admiral said.
Locklear's statements come just weeks after US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta spoke before a UN Law of the Sea forum in Washington DC on May 9.
"First, as the world's preeminent maritime power, and the country with one of the largest coastlines and extended continental shelf, we have more to gain from accession to the convention than any other country," Panetta said.
Being outside of the UNCLOS framework for now, Panetta said the US is unable to help interpret maritime rules. He said ratifying the convention "would give us the credibility to support and promote the peaceful resolution of disputes within a rules-based order."
"How can we argue that other nations must abide by international rules, when we haven't officially accepted those rules," Panetta pointed out.
Source: GMA News