The Sunday Times reported an unarmed missile had been set off from the submarine off the coast of Florida but, rather than head towards Africa, had veered towards the US.
[ BBC News, Trident: Defence Secretary refuses to give test missile details, 23 January 2017 ]
The missile is a Trident SLBM. It was fired by the HMS Vengeance from the Royal Navy (Britain). In the preamble to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, for which Britain was a depositary state, I read the following:
Desiring to further the easing of international tension and the strengthening of trust between States in order to facilitate the cessation of the manufacture of nuclear weapons, the liquidation of all their existing stockpiles, and the elimination from national arsenals of nuclear weapons and the means of their delivery pursuant to a Treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control,
Recalling that, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, States must refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations, and that the establishment and maintenance of international peace and security are to be promoted with the least diversion for armaments of the worlds human and economic resources,
[ From the preamble of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) (1968) ]
There are also a series of international legal instruments such as treaties which prohibit the formal testing of nuclear weapons which Wikipedia introduces as the "experiments carried out to determine the effectiveness, yield, and explosive capability of nuclear weapons".
- Would a country be technically conducting a nuclear weapons test according to any international legal instruments by doing what Britain was reported as doing?
- Irrespective of whether such doings were formally a nuclear
weapons test or not, would such a test infringe on any rule of
- In particular, are there any rules of international law allowing or prohibiting a country from so testing ballistic missiles? Do the nuclear weapons states recognized by the non-proliferation treaty (NPT) enjoy a specific status in that respect?
- Would being in international waters as opposed to within 200 sea miles of a country make any difference (I do not know where the missile was deployed from exactly)?