n Tydskrif vir die Suid-Afrikaanse Reg - The security council and North Korea's 2009 nuclear test : notes

Volume 2010, Issue 4
  • ISSN : 0257-7747
  • E-ISSN: 1996-2207



On 25 May 2009 the Democratic People's Republic of Korea conducted yet another nuclear test in flagrant violation of security council resolution 1718 (5551st meeting, 14 Oct 2006, par 2), adopted under chapter VII of the United Nations Charter in response to a 2006 claim by North Korea that it had conducted a test of nuclear weapons. Both these incidents were seen by members of the international community as a disconcerting sequel to North Korea's withdrawal in 2003 from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to which it became a signatory in 1983, and the subsequent termination of the country's safeguard agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency.

In response to the 2009 incident, the security council, again acting under chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, adopted resolution 1874 (6141st meeting, 12 June 2009). In addition to condemning in the strongest terms the 2009 nuclear test and, once again, prohibiting any further tests, the council took the rather extraordinary step in this resolution to North Korea's return to the Non-Proliferation Treaty and the International Atomic Energy Agency Safeguard Agreement, whose purpose it is to verify compliance by North Korea with its obligations in terms of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. This decision by the security council brings into focus the question whether the council has the power at all to direct a state to revive its membership of a treaty as an article 41 measure against a threat to international peace and security, especially in view of the fact that treaty membership is a matter of state consent which must be uncoerced, and in view of the fact that the Non-Proliferation Treaty itself provides for state withdrawal in certain specified circumstances. In addressing these issues this note will first give an overview of the main non-proliferation efforts undertaken under the auspices of the United Nations.

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