The field of nuclear non-proliferation is in ferment. The existing regime is under considerable stress, facing challenges it was not designed for, like the threat of nuclear terrorism. The ferment is manifest in tension between traditional approaches to non-proliferation and various ad hoc initiatives that are less universal and depend less on international institutions. This chapter considers three sets of issues that have arisen in the context of the recent ferment: interpretive disputes over key provisions in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT); weapons inspections and military action against Iraq, based on Security Council resolutions; and the interdiction of ships suspected of carrying WMD or related material to and from North Korea. The United Nations Security Council has been a central player in all three areas but not a sole practitioner. It is argued that both the management and enforcement of the regime is affected by a diffuse discursive process among a network of actors and institutions struggling to preserve the integrity of a regime that is in jeopardy. While legal considerations may seem tangential in the politics of non-proliferation, the legal discourse has had a significant impact on how the politics play out.
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