In addition to its involvement on finalizing the aggression amendments, the United States actively participated as an observer in the meetings of the Assembly of States Parties throughout the Obama Administration. Its interventions consistently noted those areas in which the United States had concerns, but did so in a manner that was widely perceived as constructive. For example, in the first meeting that the United States attended as an observer, Ambassador-at-Large for Global Criminal Justice Stephen Rapp noted U.S. concerns about the crime of aggression but at the same time said:
“[the United States has] a deep appreciation of the role that institutions of international justice can play in helping restore accountability and the rule of law to state struggling to emerge from lawless violence. Certainly, the U.S. Government places the greatest importance on assisting countries where the rule of law has been shattered to stand up their own system of protection and accountability—to enhance their capacity to ensure justice at home.
At the same time, the United States recognizes that there are certain times when justice will be found only when the international community unites in ensuring it, and we have been steadfast in our encouragement for action when the situation demands it…”
The U.S. posture changed significantly during the Trump Administration. For example, the United States did not avail itself of the opportunity to make a statement at any of the ASP’s annual meetings after 2017. In December 2019 (the most recent meeting of the ASP before the COVID-19 pandemic), the United States did not send a senior official and did not have a representative sit behind the U.S. placard. This stands in stark contrast with, for example, the Chinese delegation, which was led by their Deputy Director-General of the Department of Treaty and Law, who took the opportunity to promote Chinese positions, made formal statements that highlighted areas where the government had “common ground” with the ICC and had worked “in a constructive manner,” and contrasted the Chinese approach with that of other states who were engaged in “unilateralism bullying.”