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"I strongly believe that accession to this treaty is absolutely essential, not only to our economic interests, our diplomatic interests, but I'm here to say that it is extremely important to our national security interests as well," Panetta told the Senate panel. "I join a lot of the military voices of the past and present that have spoken so strongly in support of this treaty."
The treaty, which came into force in 1994, has been waiting for Senate ratification ever since.
Panetta stressed that acceding to the treaty would help maintain the United States as a global naval power. "If we're going to continue to assert our role as a maritime power, it's essential that we accede to this important convention," he told the panel.
"We believe that it is imperative to act now," Clinton said. "No country is better served by this convention than the United States. As the world's foremost maritime power, we benefit from the convention's favorable freedom of navigation provisions. As the country with the world's second-longest coastline, we benefit from its provisions on offshore natural resources."
A total of 161 countries have approved the treaty. "We're the only industrial power that has failed to do that," Panetta said. "And as a result, we don't have a seat at the table."
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