What is the Law of the Sea Treaty?
The Law of the Sea Treaty is a U.S.-initiated agreement that dramatically extends American sovereignty off U.S. shores, protects vital U.S. economic interests and ensures global freedom of movement for U.S. military vessels.
The United States has abided by its terms since the Reagan Administration, but cannot secure its rightful claims unless the Treaty is ratified by the U.S. Senate.
More than 160 countries enjoy the benefits of the Treaty. The United States is the only NATO country other than Turkey that has not ratified the Treaty. Other non-parties include Iran, North Korea and Syria.
Support for the Treaty is broad, diverse and significant – and includes the endorsement of all living former U.S. Presidents and Secretaries of State, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, current and former Army, Marine and Air Force generals and Navy and Coast Guard admirals.
With ratification, America would gain:
- Exclusive access to the full U.S. extended continental shelf, which, for example, extends up to 600 miles beyond the coast of Alaska, three times the current 200-mile limit.
- The greatest expansion of U.S. marine resource sovereignty in the history of the United States.
- A permanent seat – with veto power – on the international body that currently regulates access to ocean mineral resources in international waters.
- Exclusive access to enormous natural wealth, including productive fisheries, abundant oil and natural gas resources and vast mineral deposits.
- Universal recognition of the legal right for U.S. armed forces to move throughout and over the world’s oceans unimpeded by foreign jurisdiction in straits and economic zones.
- An internationally recognized system for resolving commercial disputes in foreign waters while still preserving America’s sovereign right to address military disputes directly, rather than through an international body.