Updating international nuclear law

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Join Britannica's Publishing Partner Program and our community of experts to gain a global audience for your work!International law, also called public international law or law of nations, the body of legal rules, norms, and standards that apply between sovereign states and other entities that are legally recognized as international actors.Furthermore, it is no longer accurate to view international law as simply a collection of rules; rather, it is a rapidly developing complex of rules and influential—though not directly binding—principles, practices, and assertions coupled with increasingly sophisticated structures and processes.In its broadest sense, international law provides normative guidelines as well as methods, mechanisms, and a common conceptual language to international actors—i.e., primarily sovereign states but also increasingly international organizations and some individuals.The UN Security Council may authorize the use of force to compel states to comply with its decisions, but only in specific and limited circumstances; essentially, there must be a prior act of aggression or the threat of such an act.Moreover, any such enforcement action can be vetoed by any of the council’s five permanent members (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States).Nine states (China, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) are known or believed to have nuclear weapons, and more than thirty others (including Japan, Germany, and South Korea) have the technological ability to quickly acquire them.

It is a mark of how far international law has evolved that this original definition omits individuals and international organizations—two of the most dynamic and vital elements of modern international law.In contemplating responses to a particular international situation, states usually consider relevant international laws.Although considerable attention is invariably focused on violations of international law, states generally are careful to ensure that their actions conform to the rules and principles of international law, because acting otherwise would be regarded negatively by the international community.See our Privacy Policy and Third Party Partners to learn more about the use of data and your rights. Our editors will review what you’ve submitted and determine whether to revise the article.

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