Melbourne Law School - Theses

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    Forestalling nuclear proliferation and use through preventative uses of force
    Hickleton, Marcus Robert ( 2020)
    75 years after the cataclysmic nuclear strikes on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, nuclear weapons pose an existential threat to human civilisation. In spite of this fact, the international community has proven largely unable to peacefully halt the spread of nuclear weapons. With Iran’s nuclear intentions in question and North Korea now in possession of a small nuclear arsenal, a debate has ensued on the legality of States using force to forestall the proliferation or use of nuclear weapons. Using the Iranian and North Korean situations as case studies, this thesis enters the debate by analysing the legal permissibility of preventative uses of force. In particular, the thesis considers: (1) the traditional interpretation of anticipatory self-defence and its crucial ‘imminence’ requirement; (2) growing calls for a broader interpretation of imminence; and (3) the potential existence of a customary rule permitting pre-emptive self-defence in the nuclear proliferation context. After applying these concepts to the Iranian and North Korean situations, it is concluded that preventative strikes on these States’ nuclear programs would not be lawful at the time of writing.