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Washington International Law Journal

Abstract

U.S. officials are moving away from supporting international law as a mechanism for preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. For example, the Bush Administration recently refused to sign the Protocol to the Southeast Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone ("SEANWFZ"). U.S. officials, relying on a policy of nuclear deterrence, maintain that this treaty unnecessarily limits freedom of navigation, creates the possibility of territorial disputes, and accords overly broad negative security assurances to the region. This Comment argues that these concerns are unfounded, and that signing the Protocol would promote U.S. and world security. Successful implementation of SEANWFZ, which requires support from nuclear-weapons states, would promote Southeast Asian security by stabilizing a regime that enhances regional confidence and cooperation. Moreover, signing this protocol is in accord with the United States' duties under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons to support the spread of regional nuclear-weapon free zones and provide legally binding negative security assurances to non-nuclear-weapons states. This Comment concludes that the United States government should sign the Protocol to the Southeast Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone because international law is a more effective mechanism than nuclear deterrence for preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

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