Destroying North Korea Would Violate Distinction and Proportionality
The United States has a legal obligation to comply with the requirements of proportionality and distinction, two bedrock principles of international humanitarian law, as delineated in the First Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions.
"Proportionality" means an attack cannot be excessive in relation to the anticipated military advantage sought. "Distinction" requires that the attack be directed only at a legitimate military target.
The total destruction of North Korea would violate the principles of proportionality and distinction.
First-Strike Use of Nuclear Weapons Violates International Law
In its 1996 advisory opinion, "Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons," the International Court of Justice (ICJ) determined that "the threat or use of nuclear weapons would generally be contrary to the rules of international law applicable in armed conflict, and in particular the principles and rules of humanitarian law."
The ICJ went on to say, "However ... the Court cannot conclude definitively whether the threat or use of nuclear weapons would be lawful or unlawful in an extreme circumstance of self-defence, in which the very survival of a State would be at stake." That means that while the use of nuclear weapons might be lawful when used in self-defense if the survival of the nation were at stake, a first-strike use would not be.
Donald Trump's apocalyptic threat against North Korea violates international law. It also imperils the lives of untold numbers of people. We must urge Congress to prevent Trump from launching a catastrophic war.Originally published in Truthout
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