On June 12, 2009 the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 1874 under chapter VII of the United Nations (UN) charter. The resolution responded to the decision of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) to challenge the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and previous resolution 1718 by testing a nuclear bomb on May 25, 2009. Resolution 1874 toughened security sanctions and widened the arms embargo already outlined in resolution 1718. This paper will use empirical evidence to analyze neorealism, hegemonic tools theory and constructivism as explanations for the actions of the Security Council in this case. Ultimately, the paper will argue that the Security Council’s actions were best explained by neorealist predictions but underlying constructivist norms and rules were also influential in resolution 1874.
For resolution 1874, Neorealism predicted that the Security Council would have acted as an alliance to balance states against a threat, as a collusion of great powers to control lesser states and as a forum for great powers to battle. The Security Council acted as an alliance that balanced voting members against the threat of the DPRK when they unanimously supported resolution 1874. The DPRK was a threat not only because of its nuclear weapons, but also because they could potentially provide their nuclear knowledge and materials to other states. Each state backed up their vote with the explanation that the DPRK constituted a threat to the international community. For example, Yukio Takasu, Japan’s representative said that the DPRK’s acts “constituted a grave threat to the national security of his country and to international peace and security.” Because, under the charter, the Security Council’s resolution is a decision that “is binding on all [member] states,” the resolution additionally balanced all UN members against the DPRK. Resolution 1874 was an alliance of states against a common threat.
Resolution 1874 demonstrated great power collusion because the five permanent members sought to maintain a nuclear hierarchy. China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States were not only the permanent seats on the Security Council but were also legitimized nuclear states under the NPT. All voting members used the resolution to support the NPT. However, while non-permanent members appealed for the abolishment of nuclear weapons, the permanent members specifically upheld the laws of the NPT. For example, Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s representative said that the DPRK had “undermined international laws on non-proliferation.” The nuclear powers supported NPT laws because the laws established “different rules for nuclear powers and non-nuclear states” and therefore affirmed nuclear inequality. Resolution 1874 was used by great nuclear powers to endorse the NPT double standards and subsequently the nuclear status quo.
The Security Council acted as a forum for the power...