The North Korean nuclear crisis and its implications for South Korea’s policy choice: the law and politics of the NPT regime

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The Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is one of the most significant instruments dealing with the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. In addition to preventing the spread of nuclear weapons, its main objectives include promoting cooperation on the peaceful use of nuclear energy and further achieving nuclear disarmament, with the ultimate goal of general and complete disarmament. The three major objectives of the NPT are, namely, nuclear non-proliferation, peaceful use of nuclear energy, and nuclear disarmament. The treaty was opened for signature in 1968 and entered into force in 1970. Twenty–five years later, the state parties of the NPT met in May 1995 and agreed to extend the treaty indefinitely. More countries have adhered to the NPT than to any other similar arms limitation and disarmament agreement. As of June 2019, 191 states have come to participate in the treaty. North Korea, which acceded in 1985 but never came into full compliance, announced its withdrawal from the NPT in 2003, following the detonation of nuclear devices in violation of core provisions of the treaty. Since then North Korea has continued developing nuclear weapons against all odds and against all sanctions from the international community. North Korea’s repeated violations of the duties of non-proliferation stipulated in the NPT imply a bleak future for peaceful coexistence on the Korean Peninsula. Also, nuclear proliferation in Northeast Asia will potentially become a serious threat to the stability and security of the international community. Taking into account this context, this essay addresses the legal and political aspects of the NPT regime with special reference to the interrelationship between international law and international relations. Specifically, it examines several issues, including the process of the development of nuclear weapons in North Korea, a review of the NPT regime, the law and politics of nuclear weapons, and South Korea’s policy choice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)101-120
Number of pages20
JournalKorean Journal of Defense Analysis
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2020


  • Balance of terror
  • International law
  • International relations
  • Mutually assured destruction
  • NPT
  • North Korean Nuclear Crisis


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