Background

  • Since 1945 the international community has struggled with the dilemma of how to allow for the peaceful uses of atom power while stopping its destructive effects
  • Over the years more and more countries exploded nuclear devices and peace initiatives like IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) were not working to stop more countries from testing nuclear devices
  • By 1963 about 25 countries possessed nuclear weapons and concern continued to grow for the safety of the world
  • In 1961 the United Nations approved a Resolution that called on all states to make an agreement that would ban the further acquisition and transfer of nuclear weapons.
  • In 1965, the Geneva disarmament conference created the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and by 1970 it was signed and put into force with 43 parties signatures including the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and the United States to last 25 years.
  • At a conference in 1995, the Treaty was extended indefinitely and further in 2000, the focus was for the nuclear-weapon states to cease the nuclear arms race including stopping nuclear testing, negotiating reductions of nuclear weapons and eventually achieving nuclear disarmament.

Key Legal Issues

  • NWS(Nuclear Weapon States) are obligated to pursue negotiations towards nuclear disarmament, by reducing and eliminating their nuclear weapons, but many states continue to have stockpiles of nuclear materials, which is contrairy to the legal terms of the treaty.
  • The NPT Treaty is reinforced by the International Court of Justice in an advisory opinion.
  • If a country chooses to withdraw, there are many sets of rules that they must follow before the withdrawal and guarantee that they will comply to not building up their nuclear arms.
  • If a state is in violation of the treaty, the International Court of Justice has the ability to advise the state what they are in violation of.
  • However, this legal duty does not have an enforceable timeline so it may require more political pressure in order for these nuclear disarmament commitments to be fulfilled.
  • The American Bar Association passed a policy resolution urging the US government to work to satisfy the treaty obligations and feels that the US should set an example for other nations around the world to commit to and follow the rule of law, without nuclear weapons.

Case

  • On Jan. 1st,  2003, North Korea announced that it was withdrawing from the NPT treaty, effective the next day; however, Article X requires that a country give 3 months notice in advance of withdrawing.
  • North Korea argued that it satisfied this requirement because it originally announced its withdrawal March 12th, 1993 and said they would not hold or develop nuclear weapons.
  • However, North Korea did just the opposite and continued their nuclear weapons developments.
  • The UN Security Council has imposed sanctions on North Korea for continuing to develop its nuclear weapons programs.
  • The sanctions have been largely unsuccessful, although they have somewhat helped slow the development of nuclear weapons in North Korea.