The Law of Arms Control and the International Non-proliferation Regime

Preventing the Spread of Nuclear Weapons


Nuclear proliferation poses a serious threat to international peace and security. The non-proliferation regime is the body of public international law that aims to counter this threat. It has been a cornerstone of global security for decades. This book analyses its main instruments.

The book focuses on the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, international trade controls and the International Atomic Energy Agency. It describes the internal mechanics of these mechanisms, their development, and their strengths and weaknesses. It shows how they together are the basis of a political-legal order that is more than the sum of its parts, offering new insights on the role of international law in an area dominated by security-driven politics.
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Biographical Note

Tom Coppen obtained his Ph.D. degree at Utrecht University in 2016 and has authored various articles and chapters on nuclear proliferation and arms control law. He currently works as a senior policy officer at the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Table of contents

Chapter 1
Introduction: non-proliferation and international law
1 Nuclear proliferation and the dual use problem
2 Non-proliferation chronology, instruments and recent challenges
2.1 Early non-proliferation efforts
2.2 T he NPT, IAEA , and trade controls
2.3 Challenges to the non-proliferation regime
3 Research question and outline
4 Methodology
5 Relevance
Chapter 2
Theoretical framework
1 Law, security and politics
1.1 Realism: Nuclear weapons, national security and deterrence
1.2 The influence of political factors on nuclear arms control law
1.3 Arms control law and International Relations theory
1.4 International Relations theory and international organisations
1.5 Evaluation: flexibility and legal certainty in nuclear arms control law
2 The supervision of non-proliferation rules
2.1 The concept of supervision and its relevance
2.2 Supervisory processes
2.2.1 Information gathering
2.2.2 Review
2.2.3 Assessment
2.2.4 Compliance management Non-treaty-specific enforcement measures Treaty-based enforcement measures From enforcement to compliance management Compliance management at the OPCW
2.3 Evaluation: analysing supervisory mechanisms
3 Treaty interpretation and the NPT
3.1 The object and purpose of the NPT
3.2 Approaches to treaty interpretation
3.3 Dynamic interpretation of the NPT as a law-making treaty
3.4 Subsequent agreement, practice, and the NPT
3.5 Evaluation: a method for interpreting the NPT
4 International institutional principles and the IAEA
4.1 The institutional framework of the IAEA
4.1.1 Role and functions
4.1.2 Institutional structure
4.2 Institutional principles, flexibility and legal certainty
4.2.1 Amendment, interpretation and revision
4.2.2 Determining the competences of international organisations and
their organs
4.3 Evaluation: the IAEA as a ‘living’ instrument
5 Conclusion
Chapter 3
Relevant provisions of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty
1 Articles I and II: core non-proliferation obligations
2 Article III.1: the obligation to conclude safeguards agreements
with the IAEA
2.1 The verification standard: subsequent agreement and practice
2.2 Article III.1 NPT: purpose and scope
2.3 Evolving safeguards standards
2.4 The CSA, AP and Article III.1
2.5 Evaluation: the evolving nature of Article III.1
3 Article III.2 NPT: safeguarding nuclear imports and exports
3.1 Object and purpose: travaux préparatoires
3.2 Article III.2 at Review Conferences
3.3 Evaluation: the issues concerning Article III.2
4 Article IV NPT: peaceful uses of nuclear energy
4.1 Article IV.1
4.1.1 Object and purpose
4.1.2 Scope
4.1.3 Article IV.1: positive and negative dimension
4.2 Article IV.2
4.2.1 Background
4.2.2 Article IV.2 at Review Conferences
4.3 Evaluation: rights and obligations under Article IV
5 Article X.1: withdrawal from the NPT
5.1 Travaux préparatoires and review conferences
5.2 Reactions to the withdrawal from the NPT by the DPRK
5.3 General public international law and the consequences of withdrawal 141
5.4 Evaluation of Article X 142
6 Article VI: the role of nuclear disarmament 144
7 Conclusions 147
Chapter 4
The role of trade controls in the non-proliferation regime
1 Trade control regimes
1.1 International
1.1.1 UNSCR 1540
1.1.2 The guidelines of the Nuclear Suppliers Group
1.2 Domestic trade control regimes
1.2.1 Foundations
1.2.2 Substantive rules
1.2.3 Scope
1.2.4 The role of non-state actors
1.2.5 Licensing procedures
1.3 Evaluation: the flexibility of trade controls
2 Trade controls as a non-proliferation instrument
2.1 Supervision of UNSCR 1540
2.1.1 Information gathering by the 1540 Committee
2.1.2 Review and assessment
2.1.3 Compliance management
2.2 Implementation of UNSCR 1540
2.3 Implementation of NSG guidelines
2.4 Trade controls and the NPT
2.5 Evaluation: an international framework for trade controls?
3 Conclusion
Chapter 5
International supervision of non-proliferation norms
1 The role of IAEA organs: review and assessment
1.1 Legal framework and practice
1.2 International institutional principles and the IAEA framework
1.3 The role of individual member states
1.4 Evaluation: institutional flexibility of the IAEA
2 Methodology of the review process
2.1 Applicable IAEA documents
2.2 IAEA practice
2.2.1 Nuclear material accounting
2.2.2 Comparative analysis
2.2.3 Level of cooperation by a state
2.2.4 Trade analysis
2.2.5 Qualification of results
2.3 Member state objections and institutional principles
2.4 Evaluation: methodological freedom
3 Methodology of the assessment process
3.1 Practice of the Board
3.1.1 Institutional-procedural factors
3.1.2 Confidence-related factors
3.1.3 External political factors
3.2 Disputes and the mandate of the Board
3.3 Evaluation: assessment and confidence
4 Compliance management at the IAEA
4.1 IAEA legal documents
4.1.1 Statute
4.1.2 Safeguards agreements
4.2 Low-level conflict management by the Secretariat
4.3 Non-compliance case studies: the role of the Secretariat and Board
4.3.1 DPRK
4.3.2 Iraq
4.3.3 Iran Board of Governors The Technical Secretariat
4.3.4 Syria Board of Governors Technical Secretariat
4.4 Coercive versus cooperative management and the IAEA framework
4.5 Evaluation: carrots over sticks
5 The role of unilateral measures
5.1 Unilateral measures as compliance management
5.2 Information gathering, review and assessment
5.3 Unilateral actions and multilateral regimes
5.4 Evaluation: unilateral supervision and the non-proliferation regime
6 Conclusions
Chapter 6
Concluding observations
1 Introduction
2 The non-proliferation regime as a constitutional legal-political order
3 Strengths of the non-proliferation regime
3.1 The NPT’s capacity for adaptation
3.2 The potential of nuclear-related trade controls
3.3 The supervision of non-proliferation norms
4 Weaknesses of the non-proliferation regime
4.1 The NPT, trade controls and the dual-use problem
4.2 Political polarisation and the effectiveness of the non-proliferation regime
4.3 Ineffective coercive compliance management
5 Perspectives for the future
5.1 Rethinking the NPT
5.2 Elaborating non-proliferation norms
5.3 Strengthening the supervision of the non-proliferation regime
6 Conclusion
Annex – Text of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons
Curriculum vitae


All those interested in arms control and nuclear non-proliferation, as well as those interested in international legal theory.


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