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Fraser, military leaders call on Senate to pass Law of Sea Convention

The commander of the U.S. Transportation Command as part of a panel of Department of Defense senior leaders yesterday, called on the Senate to ratify the U.N. Law of the Sea Convention.

The commander of the U.S. Transportation Command as part of a panel of Department of Defense senior leaders yesterday, called on the Senate to ratify the U.N. Law of the Sea Convention.  

Air Force Gen. William M. Fraser III testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee alongside five of the nation’s top military officers, including the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Navy Adm. James A. Winnefeld, commander of U.S. Pacific Command Navy Adm. Samuel J. Locklear, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert, Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Robert J. Papp and commander of U.S. Northern Command Army Gen. Charles H. Jacoby Jr. 

Winnefeld said it was “a privilege to appear alongside another generation of military leaders, as we join in sharing the view that now is the time for the United States to join the Law of the Sea Convention.”

The treaty will protect U.S. access to the maritime domain, fortify U.S. credibility as the world's leading naval power and will allow the United States to bring to bear the full force of its influence on maritime disputes, , the admiral added.

The Sea Convention treaty opened for signature in December 1982 and became effective in November 1994, after 60 countries had signed. Today, 162 parties -- including most close U.S. allies -- have ratified the Law of the Sea Convention.

 “The convention improves on previous agreements, including the 1958 Geneva Convention,” Winnefeld said.

Fraser said, “In today's environment, we assess our navigation and overflight rights through customary international law. To better secure our global access, joining the Law of the Sea Convention would provide a solid legal foundation to our military and commercial partners that transport the lifeline of supplies and equipment to our warfighters around the globe.”

 “In short,” Winnefeld said of the Law of the Sea Convention, “it preserves what we have and it gives us yet another tool to engage any nation that would threaten our maritime interests.”

“On any given day, USTRANSCOM has approximately 30 ships loading, unloading or under way,” Fraser said. “We have a mobility aircraft taking off and landing every 90 seconds. These assets are operated by our military components and our commercial partners. It's vital we maintain freedom of the high seas and international overflight routes for our military and our commercial operations as these freedoms are essential to our nation's strategic mobility.”

Winnefeld added that joining the convention will protect the United States from “ongoing and persistent efforts on the part of a number of nations, including those with growing economic and military power, to advance their national laws and set precedents that could restrict our maritime activities, particularly within the bounds of their exclusive economic zones.”

The real question, Winnefeld said, is whether the United States will choose to lead in the maritime environment from the inside or follow from the outside.  U.S. military leaders over two decades have studied the problem closely and arrived at the same conclusion, Winnefeld said: “that ratification is in our best interests.”

Closing his remarks, Fraser said,  “As we move forward and look to the future challenges, support of [the] Law of the Sea Convention is essential to our national strategy and security. “

Cheryl Pellerin and Amaani Lyle of American Forces Press Service contributed to this article.

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