Singapore to ratify UN Law of Sea treaty

SINGAPORE will accede to the most ambitious UN treaty to regulate man’s activity on the high seas.

“I guess we will…All six Asean countries will ratify the treaty, hopefully before it comes into force,” Singapore’s ambassador-at-large Tommy Koh told The Sunday Times yesterday.

Drawn up 12 years ago as the oceans’ “constitution”, the UN Law of the Sea Convention comes into force on Nov 16 this year. It has been signed by 159 countries and ratified by developing countries from Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean.

While all the Asean countries are signatories to the treaty, only Indonesia and the Philippines have ratified it.

Asked why Singapore had not acceded to the treaty earlier, Prof Koh, who was president of the the Law of the Sea conference in 1982, explained that the Republic wanted more developed countries to get on board first.

It was unfortunate, he noted, that of the 61 countries which had ratified the pact, only one was from the developed world – Iceland.

Industrial nations such as the United States, Britain and Germany have so far refused to sign the treaty, particularly Part 11. This section sets out guidelines on mining minerals in the deep seabed.

An UN official said on Thursday that developed and developing countries had already resolved their differences on how to share the oceans’ resources.

Diplomats would meet in New York this week, he said, to finalise a draft agreement in the areas of decision-making, technology transfer and setting production limits. It would be submitted to the UN General Assembly for adoption in the last week of July.

Said Prof Koh: “If the package of amendments on Part 11 is approved and adopted by the General Assembly, it will open the way for universal acceptance.”

“When you accede to the treaty, there is a hook that will pull you in,” he said, adding that it would lend to international order in the seas.

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