Suppose a UN member state threatens complete destruction of another member state - not even an invasion, but complete destruction.

This is clearly in violation of the UN's goals and charter - the very preamble and multiple fundamental articles. To clarify - unlike "use of force" against a member state, which you could perhaps argue in favor of, or give excuses for, no grievance between UN members can justify annihilation of a people - unless, that is, you disagree with the premise and basic principles of the UN.

My question is - are there official measures to censure, discipline or penalize member states for such threats? (and if so - what are they and how can they be brought to bear?)

  • Can you flesh out why you think this is different from other military force based speeches?
    – user9389
    Sep 20, 2017 at 21:27
  • @notstoreboughtdirt: See edit.
    – einpoklum
    Sep 20, 2017 at 23:11
  • Perhaps you can point out a line you find makes this limitation? I think you'll need to read into statements farther than what is actually stated as most charter language isn't particularly precise. And if the belligerent adds a "for their own good" fig leaf it becomes even harder to find direct contradiction.
    – user9389
    Sep 20, 2017 at 23:35
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    I took it as a euphemism. You are asking if planning or calling for genocide is against UN rules.
    – user9389
    Sep 21, 2017 at 0:06
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    @einpoklum: Does "complete destruction" here really mean killing everyone? Or could it mean removing the Kim regime and destroying the current government of North Korea, in much the same way that East Germany was destroyed after the fall of the USSR?
    – jamesqf
    Sep 21, 2017 at 4:25

3 Answers 3


If you're asing can UN do it? - then yes. UN can theoretically do anything that won't get a veto in security council (and vote on anything non-binding in General Assembly).

However, if the question is more reasonable "Does the UN have a pattern of penalizing a state for threatening to destroy another state", then the answer is an unambiguous and resounding "NO".

More specifically, UN has not done anything at all - not even a wagged finger of mild disapproval - at Iran despite Iran's constant and non-ending threats to destroy Israel. (more references and more here)

  • What is "anything"? Can you be specific.
    – einpoklum
    Sep 21, 2017 at 8:30
  • @einpoklum - whatever is in UN's power to do. Pass censure, authorize sanctions, authorize military strikes by member states.
    – user4012
    Sep 21, 2017 at 13:17
  • That's exactly what I was asking about. What is passing censure? How is that done? Who can initiate this? Is it all done in the security council? etc.
    – einpoklum
    Sep 21, 2017 at 13:46
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    @user4012: Iran has been penalized by numerous resolutions of the UN Security Council since 2006, for reasons including but not limited to its threats against Israel. Sep 21, 2017 at 14:54
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    @RoyalCanadianBandit: The threats-against-Israel part has been, AFAICT, kind of a dodgy allegation (IIRC, statements like "if Israel attacks then we shall XYZ" or "The states of the middle east shall not suffer Israel to exist for long" etc.), and from the link it seems the sanctions are mostly about the nuclear program. But thanks.
    – einpoklum
    Sep 21, 2017 at 15:00

From history, it seems fairly obvious that there are no such penalties. The USSR spent decades threatening to destroy the US (e.g. Kruschev's "We will bury you" speech); many Arab nations have threatened to destroy Israel (and have attempted to follow through on those threats, albeit with a notable lack of success); Iran threatens to destroy the "Great Satan"; North Korea's dictator threatens to destroy the US.... The UN doesn't seem to have done much of anything in response.


If this question is in response to Trump's statements regarding North Korea, it is important to consider them in their fullness.

No one has shown more contempt for other nations and for the well-being of their own people than the depraved regime in North Korea. It is responsible for the starvation deaths of millions of North Koreans. And for the imprisonment, torture, killing, and oppression of countless more. We were all witness to the regime's deadly abuse when an innocent American college student, Otto Warmbier, was returned to America, only to die a few days later.

We saw it in the assassination of the dictator's brother, using banned nerve agents in an international airport. We know it kidnapped a sweet 13-year-old Japanese girl from a beach in her own country, to enslave her as a language tutor for North Korea's spies. If this is not twisted enough, now North Korea's reckless pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles threatens the entire world with unthinkable loss of human life. It is an outrage that some nations would not only trade with such a regime, but would arm, supply, and financially support a country that imperils the world with nuclear conflict.

No nation on Earth has an interest in seeing this band of criminals arm itself with nuclear weapons and missiles. The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea. Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime. The United States is ready, willing, and able, but hopefully this will not be necessary. That's what the United Nations is all about. That's what the United Nations is for. Let's see how they do.

~Donald Trump, speech before the United Nations

What may be seen as an threat is instead a diplomatic ultimatum, given in response to the threat of war and provocation being proffered by Kim Jong-Un. This would be in keeping with the preamble can be leveraged against the actions taken by North Korea against their populace.

However, there isn't much teeth the UN can implement against these perceived threats. Just look back to the numerous votes that have been held against Israel.

Even closer to the matter, consider North Korea itself; Kim Jong-Un has threatened to destroy South Korea, has made claims NK could destroy the US, and specifically threatened New York.enter link description here.

In response to these and previous events, the UN Security Council has increased sanctions against North Korea, China has admitted they won't back North Korea if that country attacks first, and warned North Korea against being provocative on August 5th. Between the 5th of August and September 15th, same year, North Korea launched 5 missiles, the last two of which had flight paths over Japan. The response was talk of more sanctions, and starting the calls for political force by other means, i.e. military might.

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    Only the last paragraph is really an answer - and it's entirely unsupported. Could you flesh it out? In particular, you might try to expand or back-up the claim that the UN can't do much. Sep 20, 2017 at 20:50
  • Doesn't simple observation support the claim?
    – acpilot
    Sep 20, 2017 at 22:46
  • As @indigochild says, this is not an answer. The last paragraph could become an answer if you can be more specific and back up the statement. (I also disagree with your second-to-last paragraph in that an ultimatum = a demand + a deadline + a threat, so posing an ultimatum is making a threat; but that's not what I asked.)
    – einpoklum
    Sep 20, 2017 at 23:15
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    This does not provide an answer to the question. To critique or request clarification from an author, leave a comment below their post. - From Review Sep 20, 2017 at 23:39
  • @indigochild Corrected. Sep 21, 2017 at 0:42

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