West Germany is expected to sign the Law of the Sea Treaty in the next few weeks, well-informed diplomats here say. In doing so, Bonn will be following the lead of Japan and France, two industrial nations that resisted pressure from the US and signed the treaty in 1982.
The US has exerted considerable pressure to dissuade Bonn from signing the convention, according these diplomats. Until recently the West German government was divided on the issue, with the Foreign Affairs Ministry favoring the treaty and the Ministry of Finance pleading against it. Now Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher is said to have prevailed.
Not only is Bonn's credibility in the third world at stake, but also the siting of the Law of the Sea Tribunal. The treaty signatories picked Hamburg as its base.
The leading West German mining concern, Pressuag, which is interested in deep-seabed mining, has dropped its opposition to the treaty, since Pressaug is to be granted a mining site of its own.
Italy and Belgium are expected to follow West Germany's lead, leaving only Britain and the United States outside the treaty, West European sources say.
The Law of the Sea Convention, adopted in 1982 and signed by 134 countries, is already becoming customary law.
The Reagan administration has consistently opposed it mainly because it sees it as an attempt by the United Nations to regulate private enterprise.