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Ratify 'Law of the Sea' pact.

Byline: The Register-Guard

The United States was a key player in the early 1980s in the United Nations' development of the Law of the Sea Treaty. Three decades later, the United States is the only major nation that has refused to sign it.

The pact has been stalled so long in the U.S. Senate that Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., quipped last Wednesday that he was witnessing a "Lazarus moment" when Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to urge that the treaty be approved.

It's time for lawmakers to ratify a treaty that long has had the support of Republican and Democratic presidents, military leaders, environmental advocates, the national Chamber of Commerce and the energy industry.

Despite such backing, the treaty has been held hostage by opponents who are willing to sacrifice American interests to a bizarre belief that any agreement brokered by the United Nations must be a plot to undermine U.S. sovereignty. As Clinton reminded lawmakers, the Law of the Sea treaty has nothing to do with black helicopters and everything to do with codifying the rules for the use of the oceans and maritime resources.

By ratifying this treaty, the Senate can make certain that the United States has a seat at the table in critical international negotiations on navigational rights and seabed mining. That U.S. presence is critical to bolstering national security; providing access to oil, gas and other resources; and helping to - are you listening, Mitt Romney? - create jobs.

The treaty protects the ability of the U.S. Navy to move freely on the seas. It allows commercial shipping to bring critical resources to and from the United States. (More than 28 percent of all U.S. exports and 48 percent of U.S. imports are transported by sea.) It ensures access for marine scientists to engage in research. It provides internationally recognized rules for fishing, mineral development, and pipeline and cable installation.

On the national security front, it provides a forum for resolving conflicts, reducing the threat of conflicts in flash-point regions such as the Strait of Hormuz, where Iran has threatened to block shipping, and the South China Sea, where China is flexing its maritime muscle.

If Republicans continue to block ratification, the United States could encounter legal difficulties and lengthy delays as it seeks to exploit oil and gas deposits buried beneath the offshore seabed. That's of particular importance in the Arctic Ocean, where Russia, China and other countries are staking claims under the treaty's guidelines as melting ice opens up extraordinary mineral riches.

The Law of the Sea treat has split Republicans, with pro-business forces in the party strongly backing ratification and tea party conservatives making arguments that are, as Hillary Clinton rightly observed, driven by "ideology and mythology."

Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee for president and a candidate who proclaims that he would be a pro-business president, should join President Obama in supporting the treaty unequivocally.

The Senate should stop stalling and ratify the Law of the Sea treaty.

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Title Annotation:Editorials and Letters
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:May 27, 2012
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