This essay presents a critique of the primary drawback, seen as normative weakness, of the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone (SPNFZ). It begins with an overview of the conceptual foundation of N(W)FZs and of their political and normative significance for our times. The essay then goes on to describe the content of the Rarotonga Treaty which established the SPNFZ, as well as the criticisms against it The essay uses an analytical framework in which notions like ‘aspirations’ and ‘normativity’ figure as key concepts, in order to ascertain the real problems with the zone The main questions asked here are: who aspired to what, at which level, and who or what hindered these aspirations? The analysis shows, on the one hand, that the framers of the SPNFZ were hedged in by certain constraints that they themselves could not overcome easily, like some rules of international law. On the other hand, it also demonstrates that the shortcomings of the SPNFZ are more deep-rooted, in the sense that the bedrock of the entire undertaking was a self-contradictory presumption, i. e. a nuclear-deterrence-based nuclear free zone. The essay thus draws the conclusion that the real weakness of the SPNFZ lies in this inherent contradiction, particularly when compared with New Zealand's endeavor to become nuclear-free.
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