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date: 29 June 2022

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) between states and non-state actors and its implications for international law governing the use of force. It considers whether WMD proliferation and changes in security realities have brought a crisis in international law on the use of force and discusses the use of pre-emptive force for preventing states and non-state actors ‘of concern’ from developing and using WMD. It analyses the shift in the policy positions of the US and other relatively powerful states, from more multilateral and diplomacy-based ‘non-proliferation’ to increased emphasis on proactive and often unilateral or small-coalition-based ‘counterproliferation’. It looks at concerns that several states will be emboldened to apply the doctrine of counterproliferation-oriented pre-emption to their regional conflicts. Finally, it evaluates proposals to reform the provisions and procedures of the UN Charter system for regulating the use of force, including the law on self-defence.

Keywords: weapons of mass destruction, international law, use of force, non-proliferation, counterproliferation, pre-emption, UN Charter, self-defence

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