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“24 Star” Military Witnesses Voice Strong Support for Law of the Sea Treaty

WASHINGTON, DC – Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) today chaired a hearing entitled “The Law of the Sea Convention:  Perspectives from the U.S. Military” featuring witness testimony from six high ranking military officials – four Admirals and two Generals – all urging ratification of the treaty.

“There’s a reason every living Chief of Naval Operations supports U.S. accession to the Law of the Sea,” said Chairman Kerry.  “They know the United States needs the Treaty’s ‘navigational bill of rights’ for worldwide access to get our troops to the fight, to sustain them during the fight, and to get back home without the permission of other countries.”

Below are excerpts from each witness’ testimony, which can be viewed in full at

Admiral James A. Winnefeld, Jr. is Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff:

“Joining this treaty will strengthen our posture and operations across the maritime domain, including in the Arctic, the Asia-Pacific region, the Strait of Hormuz, and the global shipping lanes at the heart of our military sealift capabilities.

“Joining will solidify our global maritime leadership, enhance our credibility, and, as the world’s foremost naval power, allow us to bring to bear the full force of our influence on maritime disputes.”

Admiral Jonathan W. Greenert is Chief of Naval Operations:

“As the world’s preeminent maritime power, the United States will benefit from the support LOSC provides to our operations. Our ability to deter aggression, contains conflict, and fight and win our nation’s wars depends upon our ability to freely navigate the world’s oceans.

“The rules inherent in LOSC support worldwide access for military and commercial ships and aircraft without requiring permission of other countries, such as in the archipelagic waters of countries like Indonesia, or in the Arctic where receding ice is opening new routes for transit.”

Admiral Robert J. Papp, Jr. is Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard:

“I am firmly convinced that the legal certainty and stability accorded by the Convention will strengthen Coast Guard efforts in: (1) sustaining mission excellence as America’s maritime first responder; (2) protecting American prosperity; and (3) ensuring America’s Arctic future.

“The ability to navigate freely in international waters, engage in innocent and transit passage, and enjoy high seas freedoms are critical rights under international law, which the Convention codifies. These rights allow our cutters and aircraft to move without the permission of or need to provide advance notice to other coastal nations. I add my voice to the other armed services in urging that we “lock in” these crucial rights through the Convention to protect them from erosion.

“Joining the Convention will enhance the Coast Guard’s ability to protect America’s prosperity by facilitating commerce and preserving ocean resources. Commercial ships, which are the engines that drive the international supply chain, rely on the same navigational rights as our cutters to traverse the oceans.

“Joining the Convention guarantees that commercial ships will continue to enjoy these same rights and navigation freedoms, assuring that maritime shipping remains the most cost-efficient mode of transportation. America needs the Convention to secure stability in maritime trade, boost economic confidence, and open the door to exploitation of deep seabed resources by U.S. industry.”

General William M. Fraser III is Commander of U.S. Transportation Command:

“I believe that a comprehensive, globally accepted and stable legal basis for navigating and overflying the world’s oceans is essential to support our forces worldwide and to ensure our national security.

“As the defense strategy places greater demands on our ability to mobilize forces, guaranteed access to shipping and overflight lanes becomes increasingly important to support our forces overseas.

“This Convention represents the best guarantee against erosion of essential navigation and overflight freedoms that we take for granted through reliance on customary international law. Accession will give the United States leverage to counter efforts by other nations seeking to reshape current internationally accepted rules we depend on for transporting cargo and passengers.”

General Charles H. Jacoby, Jr. is the Commander of U.S. Northern Command:

“Acceding to the Convention will reinforce our leadership role in shaping international maritime policy and overseeing peaceful economic activity on and under our world’s seas and oceans. Greater access to the Arctic Ocean highlighted by Shell’s exploratory drilling this summer and the increasing trend in commercial shipping through the Bering Strait are new circumstances that highlight the benefits the United States can access through the Convention for continued economic progress, freedom of maneuver, conservation of offshore resources, and protection of the sensitive maritime environment.

“Joining the Convention will protect and advance a broad range of significant economic and national security interests, and ultimately contribute to the peaceful opening of the Arctic in a manner that strengthens the United States and international cooperation.

Admiral Samuel J. Locklear, III is Commander of U.S. Pacific Command:

“After careful reflection, I am fully confident that our accession to this Convention would advance U.S. national security interests in the PACOM area of responsibility (AOR). Specifically, the Convention sets forth and locks-in a rules-based order that protects military activities which are vital to our operations in defense of the nation, as well as our allies and partners.

“As the Asia Pacific region continues to rise, competing claims and counter claims in the maritime domain are becoming more prominent. Nowhere is this more prevalent than in the South China Sea. Numerous claimants have asserted broad territorial and sovereignty rights over land features, sea space, and resources in the area. The United States has consistently encouraged all parties to resolve their disputes peacefully through a rules-based approach. The Convention is an important component of this rules-based approach and encourages the peaceful resolution of maritime disputes. Here again though, the effectiveness of the U.S. message is somewhat less credible than it might otherwise be, due to the fact that we are not a party to the Convention.”

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