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Law of the Sea treaty heads for full US Senate vote after committee approval

[JURIST] The US Senate Foreign Relations Committee [official website] voted 17-4 Wednesday to send the 1994 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea [UN materials; SFRC hearing materials] to the full US Senate [official website] for ratification. The treaty has been sharply criticized by conservative Republicans who claim it would limit US sovereignty. Foreign Relations Committee ranking minority member Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) said in his opening statement [PDF text] to the Committee on Wednesday that "[t]he vote today is about whether the Senate will continue to consign the United States to a position of self-imposed weakness in our ability to influence ocean affairs, despite the fact that no other nation has a greater interest in navigational freedoms, a larger Exclusive Economic Zone, or a more advanced technological capacity to exploit ocean resources." Reuters has more. AP has additional coverage.

The Foreign Relations Committee gave unanimous support to the treaty in 2004, but full Senate ratification stalled on the floor. [JURIST report] Ratification of the treaty has been a priority [JURIST report] of the Bush administration. Top officials have argued that US military interests are at risk while the US remains outside of the treaty; Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England said last month that membership in the treaty would "support the global mobility of our armed forces and the sustainment of our combat forces overseas."

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