Hanns Günther Hilpert, Oliver Meier

Charting a New Course on North Korea’s Nuclear Programme?

The Options and the Non-Proliferation Treaty

SWP Comments 2013/C 19, June 2013, 7 Pages

Should North Korea be recognised as a de facto nuclear power? Even after three nuclear tests the international discussion continues to tiptoe around this crucial question for the nuclear non-proliferation regime. The aftermath of the spring 2013 escalation only makes the problem more urgent. North Korea uses its nuclear weapons as a threat in diplomatic and security talks, has declared itself a nuclear-weapon state by constitutional amendment, and most recently openly threatened a nuclear strike against the United States and South Korea. Nonetheless, the international community adheres doggedly to the legal stance that North Korea is a non-nuclear-weapon state under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and must renounce nuclear arms. Given Pyongyang’s repeated violations of the treaty this position is well founded. But in view of the power of the factual, it is legitimate to ask how long this position can and should be upheld. Why should the international community not treat North Korea like other nuclear powers outside the NPT?

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