The Law of the Sea Treaty may be brought to a vote in the Senate by John Kerry sometime in early 2012. Ambassador John Bolton charts the implications for U.S. sovereignty on Secure Freedom Radio. Listen to the interview in the video, or see the transcript below.
Transcript of Ambassador John Bolton on the LOST treaty.
FRANK GAFFNEY: But on this question of sovereignty, you have written and been quite, I think, visionary in your warnings about something called the Law of the Sea Treaty. There are reports that the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, John Kerry, at the administration’s behest, hopes to bring it up for a vote in the United States Senate in 2012. And I’d just like to get your sense of the advisability of such a step and what’s really wrong with the Law of the Sea Treaty.
JOHN BOLTON: Well, the treaty is really a relic of the 1970s and it’s been an objective of the international left for thirty years now to get the United States to sign onto the treaty, which basically internationalizes the seabed and puts control over undersea resources in an international authority and locks in the rules of navigation that the US, up until now, has had considerable flexibility and power because of our strengths both in the commercial and military naval fields. But the proponents of the treaty are about to make one last push it appears with the Obama presidency still in office and with control of the Senate. These offenses to get the treaty ratified have occurred a number of times in recent years, are always defeated by alert people in the Senate who see the negative implications of this treaty, but as you say, it looks like we’re going to see this rise again one more time in a very important battle in the Senate this coming year.
FRANK GAFFNEY: Ambassador Bolton, you and your colleague in the Bush Administration and now at AEI, Dan Blumenthal, wrote an important piece about China’s double game with respect to the Law of the Sea Treaty. And I wonder if you might elaborate on that, because we’re told by proponents of the treaty that – including the United States Navy, amazingly enough, that we need the treaty to contend with the threat that China, particularly, is now playing – or posing, at least, with respect to passage of the South China Sea and some of its critical, you know, narrows and passages.
JOHN BOLTON: Well, yeah, the Chinese performance in the past couple of years is an excellent, almost elaboratory style example of what’s wrong with the Law of the Sea Treaty. And with those who say they understand what the treaty’s provisions mean, they understand simplifications. In fact, what China has done very successfully is exploit ambiguities in the treaty entirely to its own advantage to try and extend its influence through the treaty’s economic zone into political control. And as you mentioned, in the South China Sea, where they have just extraordinary territorial claims, both for strategic military reasons, but also for economic reasons, to get control of what are expected to be extensive deposits of oil and natural gas. So the economic purpose is there and the political, military purpose is very clear as well. They’re trying to push the United States Navy as far back from their coast as they can to prevent us from carrying out what for centuries have been entirely legitimate military missions in international waters and to deny us the ability to conduct intelligence gathering activities, which in international waters are perfectly permissible. That’s why the US joining this treaty really renounces the freedom that we have now under customary international law and would subject us to the votes of the treaty adherents, which are undoubtedly, much like the General Assembly of the UN, going to be very negative in their views of the US role.
FRANK GAFFNEY: Yeah. And also that can be said of the various mechanism that the treaty creates for mandatory dispute resolution, which are also stacked decks against us. Mr. Ambassador, before we turn to another topic, just quickly, one of the presidential candidates for the Republican nomination, Rick Santorum, was on our program last week and made much the same sort of argument against the treaty. How important would you say, given your sense of the threat this treaty represents to American sovereignty, that we have the other Republican presidential candidates address this issue forcefully and directly in the days ahead?
JOHN BOLTON: Well, I think it’s very important. You know, one of my concerns for the past year has been the lack of discussion of national security matters at the top levels of our national political debate. And I’ve been particularly concerned about the relative lack of discussion of national security in the presidential campaigns. So I’m quite glad that Rick Santorum has come out forcefully against the Law of the Sea Treaty and in these days before the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary, I’d like to see all the Republican candidates oppose it. I think that is their inclination. But I think we should get them on record. I think people need to know about these issues as they cast their votes in the caucuses and primaries.