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Establishing Rule of Law Critical to South China Sea: Dealing with the various territorial claims and disputes surrounding China and its neighbors in the South China Sea will be a persistent challenge for the United States and its security partnerships in the Pacific, Adm. Samuel Locklear told the Senate Armed Services Committee. Therefore, for US interests, it is crucial to establish a security environment in the region that allows for discussions through international law and multilateral venues, Locklear told the senators during his nomination hearing to lead US Pacific Command, succeeding Adm. Robert Willard. The proper course would be to allow a venue to reach determinations through international law, said Locklear in his Feb. 9 testimony. The United States has yet to ratify the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea treaty, leaving room for a perceived credibility gap, he noted. "If we are not a signatory, to some degree it lessens our credibility," as we work with nations of the region to resolve disputes, said Locklear, who currently commands US Naval Forces Europe and led Navy forces during 2011's Libya campaign. (Locklear's responses to advance questions.)