October 29, 2015

Cardin Calls on Senate to Ratify United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, Reacts to Ruling by International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, issued the following statement in support of today’s unanimous finding by the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea in a case brought by the Philippines against China regarding its claims in the South China Sea. Senator Cardin also repeated his call for the U.S. Senate to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

“I welcome today’s unanimous finding by the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) that it has jurisdiction over the case that the Philippines has brought before it regarding claims in the South China Sea.  It is through international law and diplomacy that the claimants should seek to resolve their differences.

“This ruling further underscores the vital necessity of the United States Senate taking action to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea so that we can better work with our allies and partners in the region to address on-going maritime security issues.  The U.S. Congress has never given its consent to ratification of the UNCLOS treaty and this failure to act is regrettable. Our hand in this domain would be significantly strengthened through bipartisan action.

“Indeed, every state whose trade passes through the South China Sea, or whose ships and aircraft use the South China Sea, has an interest in upholding the right of freedom of navigation, over-flight, and supporting international law and international institutions as the appropriate way to resolve competing claims.  Given the vital role maintaining the maritime commons plays for our security and prosperity and that of our allies and partners, the United States must assure the continuity of operations of our Armed Forces in the Asia-Pacific region.

“While the United States does not take sides on the merits of the different territorial claims, we believe that it is vitally important to reaffirm the principle of freedom of operations and freedom of navigation in international waters and airspace in accordance with established principles and practices of international law.  And we likewise urge all parties to manage their differences peacefully in accordance with international law and with the aim of maintaining regional peace and stability – and, as the ITLOS ruling finds, using appropriate mechanisms of international arbitration and dispute resolution. 

“I find China’s reaction to the recent U.S. naval operation in the region troubling and unwarranted, and hope that they will respond positively to the pathway forward for addressing these issues in a peaceful, legal and diplomatic manner that today’s ruling suggests.”

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