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Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and military leaders implored conservative Republicans on Wednesday to approve a long-spurned high seas treaty, saying it would create jobs, open a new path to oil, gas and other resources and bolster national security.

Clinton, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, made a rare joint appearance before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to make the case for the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea. The United States is the only major nation that has refused to sign the treaty, which was concluded in 1982 and been in force since 1994.

Since the Reagan administration, the U.S. has abided by the rules of the treaty, which is endorsed by 161 countries and the European Union.

Clinton and the military leaders said it was now time for the U.S. to grab a seat at the table in international negotiations on navigational rights and seabed mining.

“One hundred and sixty nations have acceded to it, and we say, ‘To hell with them, we’re not going to participate in that,'” Panetta said. “Then 160 nations are going to determine what happens” and the U.S. is on the sidelines.

He said the United States repeatedly insists that Iran and North Korea follow international rules. Failing to approve the sea treaty, Panetta said, undermines U.S. authority.

Conservative and tea party Republicans say the treaty would undercut U.S. sovereignty, force a redistribution of wealth and stand in for the Kyoto Protocol on climate change that would allow foreign countries to regulate U.S. energy.

“I am well aware that this treaty does have determined opposition, limited but nevertheless quite vociferous,” Secretary Clinton said. “And it’s unfortunate because its opposition based in ideology and mythology, not in facts, evidence or the consequences of our continuing failure to accede to the treaty.”

She suggested that opponents who are wary of any U.N.-based treaty are expressing unfounded fears. “That means the black helicopters are on their way,” Clinton said.

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