Who decides who can have nuclear weapons?

Everyone is up in arms because North Korea is starting to develop nuclear warheads. So what? The USA and UK have them, along with France, China, India, Israel, Pakistan, Germany (I think) and maybe one other.

Why does the UN become concerned about one country and not another? Is it to do with having to sign a non-agression treaty (though the India / Pakistan tensions seem to indicate this isn’t an issue)

I know North Korea is tecnically at war with South Korea and a bit of a rougue state generally, but what criteria defines a rouge state. Why aren’t the UN threatening to shut down the nuclear power plants here in the UK?

So what if say, Australia decided to build one? Would they be treated like North Korea?

I think the underlying premise is that those who have them will keep them and those that don’t have them should not seek to aquire them. In short, nuclear proliferation is a Bad Thing[sup]tm[/sup].

The more countries that possess nukes the more likely a situation will arise somewhere where they will get used. Simple Law of Averages will kick in here.

So, most countries that did not already have nukes signed non-proliferation treaties saying they would not seek them out. It makes sense for them. If Brazil gets nukes then Argentina, Peru, Columbia and so on will feel compelled to get them. No one is safer in that calculus. Best if everyone avoids them.

In the end of course any country can pretty much do as it pleases if they don’t care about world opinion and North Korea is one such country. Further they broke their agreement to not develop nuclear weapons and now there is trouble afoot.

Australia, being a considerably more stable government and with few neighbors to care and fewer ‘enemies’ probably wouldn’t get in too much trouble if they developed nukes. Frankly I bet they could on short notice and that’s enough for them. Still, if they broke a treaty they may have to get some sanctions levelled at them for not playing by the rules but I doubt it would amount to much.

Welcome to the boards.

Complicated questions. I’ll quickly say that all this is determined through treaties, international agreements, military action, and other things.

Your being somewhat flip “so what?” about the proliferation of nuclear weapons begs the quesion: what do you think is beneficial, in any way, about many nations acquiring nuclear weapons? I’m sure you see the use-them-or-lose-them character to nuclear weapons that can heighten tensions, especially between geographically proximate nations.

Australia? G’day, don’t nuke us. Thanks. Sorry, that was flip. Australia is probably a signatory to disarmament agreements. Why make yourself a target to international scorn with no strategic advantage?

I would love for all the nuclear weapons to go away. We try, as a national policy, to reduce our stockpiles through agreements. Bush has proposed a huge cut in offensive nuclear missiles, but it was followed by the whole destruction controversy. Anyway, I’m for disarmament everywhere. Don’t expect to make any headway in that area until there is headway in stopping the proliferation into every nation with a grudge against another.

Haven’t you been paying attention lately? The US decides.

Just kidding (sort of). There’s such a thing as the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty that most nations have signed. This pretty much governs things. But of course there are the grandfathered countries (US, Russia, etc.). I don’t believe India, Pakistan or Israel are signatories to the NNT. In reality, though, if you’re big enough and not a “rogue” state, there is little the international community can do to stop a country for developing Nuclear Weapons.

In Iraq’s case, though, it’s important to remember that they lost a war (to the US lead coalition in the Gulf War) and part of the terms of the cease fire was for them to not have or develop WMDs.

The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, which entered into force in 1968, binds those states which already have nuclear weapons not to transfer them to other states, and binds those states which do not have nuclear weapons not to acquire them. The treaty give the International Atomic Energy Authority various powers of inspection.

Most states have ratified the treaty; in particular Iraq, North Korea and (since you mention it in your OP) Australia are all parties to it. Hence it is illegal for any of them to acquire nuclear weapons.

The states which have not] ratified the treaty include Israel, India, Pakistan and Cuba.

North Korea has withdrawn from the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

I want to have whatever I want. Whatever I take is mine. Damn Jews, American infidels they are in my way. egglesa I want to F%@# you mama.

You decide.

We apply the Golden Rule: Whoever has the most gold, makes the rules.

Whoever already has the most nukes makes the rules. I wish. Unfortunately, crazy assholes like North Korea’s Kim Jong Il don’t seem to care about rules or who has the most nukes, and his one nuke is enough to begin the end. Just an opinion, not much of a debate point.

Oh, and egglesa, welcome to the boards.

I think we can all agree North Korea is more likely to build a nuke and sell it to the Al queda or whoever else wants it then the UK is.

All this talk of various treaties being “the rules” is a little misleading, since treaties can be withdrawn from whenever a nation state feels it is in their national interest to do so.

As for sanctions, well, they are also simply within the remit of nation states, and so being on the receiving end of sanctions really says more about who your enemies are than your possible moral transgressions. I can’t recall sanctions being levelled against the state which withdrew from or refused to ratify seven worldwide treaties and protocols in a matter of months.

If something is right because it is in the national interest, one cannot demonise other nations for acting in their national interest.

Not generally true. Whether, how and in what circumstances a state can withdraw from a treaty is dealt with by the treaty itself.

For instance, a state can only withdraw from the Non-Proliferation Treaty if “extraordinary events, related to the subject matter of this Treaty, have jeopardized the supreme interests of its country”. It has to give three months’ written notice, stating the “extraordinary events”.

I haven’t looked at the details of North Korea’s withdrawal from the Non-Proliferation Treaty; there may well be an argument that it doesn’t meet this test, and so is illegal. In any event, as North Korea had begun its nuclear weapons programme before announcing its withdrawal, it was already in breach of the treaty and so behaving illegally, and can be sanctioned for that.

Unless you can argue that the state in question acted illegally in withdrawing or refusing to ratify, there is no case for sanctions.

I think you can distinguish between something which is lawful and in a state’s national interests, and something which is unlawful and in a state’s national interest. The one may be right while the other is not.

I think you can distinguish between something which is lawful and in a state’s national interests, and something which is unlawful and in a state’s national interest. The one may be right while the other is not.

Which one is right?

For my purposes it doesn’t matter which one is right. The point is simply that they don’t have to be both right or both wrong.

For what it is worth, in most cases it will be easier to defend the lawful action as right than it will to defend the unlawful action. But this will not be universally true.

But since states make the laws, then something which is in a state’s interest can very quickly become legal, at least within that state.

We are talking about international law here, the law which regulates relations between states. No one state can unilaterally determine international law. A state is not, legally, entitled to act in its self-interest if that action involves a breach of its obligations to another state.

For example, Iraq is not entitled, morally or legally, to invade and annex Kuwait in pursuit of its own self-interest. The fact that it might be very, very, very much to the advantage of Iraq to annex Kuwait does not make it either right or legal.

The legality of Iraq invading Kuwait really isn’t/wasn’t a factor. It would be (was) condemned by the international community because the event was not in the best interests of the powers that be, not because of any legalities behind it. The international law only served to add support to the international condemnation rather than spark it.

In response to the OP, I do not think that any countries should be able to regulate which other countries get to possess nukes. While the more countries that possess them does increase the possiblity of them being used, it really boils down to an all or nothing. Either every country has access to nukes or no country has them. But this tends to be an ideological view and isn’t not really practically implemented.

Ultimately I think that countries that have control (read that as the ability to exert a large influence) over the international community do not want to relinquish that power while the rest of the countries are all trying to get their hands on the magic mushroom that allows them to get onto, and become a major player on, the international stage.

I don’t think that’s entirely true. Lots of things happen which are contrary to the interests of the major powers, but they don’t get the kind of reaction that the invasion of Kuwait got. The invasion of Kuwait was

(a) very much against the interests of the major powers (especially the United States), and

(b) plainly illegal.

I don’t think you’ll be able to find an example of a massive multilateral armed response unless both of these conditions are satisfied.