Dems urge treaty ratification after South China Sea ruling

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Seventeen Democrats from the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs committees, including both ranking members, are urging the Senate to ratify a United Nations treaty in the wake of a court ruling on claims in the South China Sea. 

{mosads}The group said Tuesday that the upper chamber should ratify a United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) treaty to protect American interests. 

“The United States Senate should take steps to do what the past three presidents, the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Coast Guard have long requested: to ratify UNCLOS and to protect U.S. interests by ensuring that the United States is a full and participating party to this important international agreement,” the lawmakers said in a statement.

The statement comes in response to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague’s ruling against China’s claims in the South China Sea. The suit was brought by the Philippines, which argued that China violated its sovereign rights with excessive claims.

The basis for the ruling was UNCLOS, which 167 countries and the European Union are party to. The treaty, reached in 1982, sets the rights and responsibilities of nations’s use of the world’s oceans and their natural resources.

The United States follows provisions of the treaty as part of following customary international law. But opponents of ratification say there are other provisions that are against U.S. interests.

Supporters of the treaty say without it, the United States has no leverage to make China comply with the court ruling.

In addition to urging the treaty’s ratification, the Democratic lawmakers said Tuesday’s ruling provides opportunities for other claimants in the South China Sea.

“Following the Tribunal’s decision, we hope that all claimants will renew their efforts to resolve the maritime disputes in the South China Sea in a manner that is peaceful and consistent with international law,” they said.

Governments in the Asia-Pacific region will also have to decide whether to continue following the rules, norms and respect for international law after the ruling.

“The ruling also presents an opportunity for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to speak with one voice on a matter of deep political and strategic importance, not just to the Philippines, but to the its entire membership,” the lawmakers said.

The statement was issued by Democratic Reps. Adam Smith (Wash.), ranking member of the Armed Services Committee; Rep. Eliot Engel (N.Y.), ranking member of the Foreign Affairs Committee; Loretta Sanchez (Calif.); Jim Langevin (R.I.); Rick Larsen (Wash.); Del. Madeleine Bordallo (Guam); Joe Courtney (Conn.); John Garamendi (Calif.); Jackie Speier (Calif.); Brad Sherman (Calif.); Gregory Meeks (N.Y.); Gerry Connolly (Va.); Ted Deutch (Fla.); Bill Keating (Mass.); Ami Bera (Calif.); Alan Lowenthal (Calif.); and Joaquín Castro (Texas).

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