NPT Withdrawal: Time for the Security Council to Step In

Journal Articles
ACT May 05

The nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) provides that a state-party intending to withdraw from the treaty must give the UN Security Council three months' notice of its intention and provide the Security Council with its reasons for withdrawal. This provision was intended to give the Security Council an opportunity to deal with any withdrawal that might produce a threat to international peace and security.

More than two years ago, North Korea renewed its 1993 notice of withdrawal from the NPT, a notice that had been suspended a decade earlier during negotiations with the United States. That announcement left the Security Council with only a single day before North Korea would become the first country to withdraw from the NPT.

The Security Council did nothing. Indeed, it has continued to ignore North Korea's action even as Pyongyang has repeatedly stated its intention to produce nuclear weapons, sending a dangerous message to other states considering withdrawal. The once-every-five-years NPT review conference that will meet in New York this month provides a valuable opportunity to address the North Korea case and prod the Security Council to address similar cases that may emerge.

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