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Congressman Joe Courtney

Representing the 2nd District of Connecticut

Chairman Courtney Introduces Bipartisan Resolution Urging the Senate to Ratify United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea Treaty

June 20, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congressman Courtney, Chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces, was joined by Representatives Don Young (R-AK), Susan Davis (D-CA), Jim Langevin (D-RI), Rick Larsen (D-WA), John Garamendi (D-CA), and Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), and Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ) in reintroducing a resolution calling upon the Senate to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) treaty. 

“As China and Russia continue to push the boundaries of their maritime claims, it is of utmost importance that the U.S. Senate take up and ratify the UNCLOS treaty,” said Congressman Courtney. “When the U.S. is unable to meaningfully participate in Law of the Sea discussions and rulings, it undermines the credibility of our military and diplomatic services. We are seeing the consequences of Russia's willingness to disregard the terms of UNCLOS in the illegal seizure of Ukrainian ships and sailors by Russian forces in the Kerch Strait in November 2018. Despite the UN tribunal ruling on May 25th that Russia must release the Ukrainian ships and sailors, Russia has yet to comply, and these Ukrainian sailors remain under lock and key in Moscow.  

“On the other side of the world, China continues to protest the U.S. Navy’s legitimate freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea. While the Navy has stated it will continue to conduct these operations to preserve critical sea lanes in the region, the Senate must do its part to formalize our nation’s perspective on maritime policy. With the increasing openness of the Arctic region for economic and military expansion, and continued troubling action from Russia and China, we have little time to waste to ensure the U.S. can approach any future discussions from a legitimate position based firmly in our ratification of the Law of the Sea.”  

“As vessel traffic and the growing presence of foreign interests continue to increase in the Arctic, it is more important than ever to work with our allies to help guarantee freedom of navigation in the region,” said Congressman Young. “Ratifying treaties is one of the U.S. Senate’s most important Constitutional roles, and I urge them to take up and ratify the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) treaty. Ratification of the UNCLOS treaty will help ensure America’s role as a leading advocate for protecting the freedom of vessels to navigate Arctic waters and solidify our place in discussions focused on the future development of the Arctic.”

After being named Chairman of the Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces in January, Congressman Courtney sat down with the Wall Street Journal’s Ben Kesling to talk more about the need to ratify the UNCLOS treaty. Click here to read “Cold War Games: U.S. Is Preparing to Test the Waters in Icy Arctic.”

Courtney has publicly advocated for the ratification of the treaty since 2015, when he penned an op-ed published in Roll Call.  

Background

On November 25, 2018, Russian forces seized three Ukrainian vessels and detained 24 Ukrainian sailors after firing upon the Ukrainian ships while in the Kerch Strait, a small body of water which connects the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. Despite widespread condemnation of Russia’s action by governments around the world, including the United States, Russia maintains the position that the Ukrainian vessels were attempting to enter Russian sovereign waters and has yet to release the detained Ukrainian sailors. 

On May 25, 2019, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea ruled in an overwhelming 19-1 vote that Russia must immediately release the Ukrainian ships and sailors seized in the Kerch Strait incident. To date, however, Russia has not done so, claiming that the ships and sailors violated Russia’s sovereignty by operating in the location where they were detained. 

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