Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law


Mark E. Newcomb

First Page



The United Nations, the United States, and other interested governments have sought to minimize the proliferation of nuclear weapons. North Korea's apparent attempts to begin production of nuclear materials clearly undermine the goal of non-proliferation. Moreover, the introduction of nuclear weapons onto the Korean peninsula, a site of continued political and military tension, has added a threat of potential nuclear conflict. This Article investigates the history of the Korean crisis and places North Korea's attempt to withdraw from the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons in the context of the international non-proliferation regime and policy. The author then examines the present collective security system and the evolution of the concept of self-defense in international law, concluding that the traditional concept of self-defense is inadequate to deal with the problem presented by a nuclear threat. In response to this crisis, the author suggests that the United States first pursue a peaceful, diplomatic solution. Economic sanctions, imposed both by the United Nations and by the United States unilaterally, are the next proposed route. As a last resort, the author proposes that the United States should respond to North Korean hostilities by increasing its military presence in the Western Pacific and by executing a preventive strike against North Korean nuclear facilities.