South Korea Stops Calling North Korea `Enemy' in Defense Report

(Bloomberg) -- South Korea dropped a reference to North Korea as its “enemy” in a Defense Ministry white paper for the first time since 2010, reflecting warming ties between the neighbors still technically at war.

In a report released on Tuesday, the ministry said that North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction remained a threat to “peace and security on the Korean Peninsula.” But the paper, which last came out in 2016, no longer described North Korea’s military provocations or cyber attacks as the main threat to its security.

“The expression of ‘enemy’ not only encompasses North Korean threats, but also other transnational and nonmilitary threats,” the ministry said in a news release about the paper that lays out South Korea’s defense and security goals for the next two years.

The white paper is the first published under the administration of President Moon Jae-in, who took office in May 2017 with pledges to seek rapprochement with North Korea. The two Koreas have about 1 million troops near their border and have yet to reach a peace treaty to end the 1950-53 Korean War.

During the administrations of conservative presidents, North Korea has been typically listed as an “enemy“ or the “main enemy” only to be soften by liberal administrations. The current reference appeared after the deadly shelling of a South Korean island and naval vessel in 2010.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un held three summits with Moon and his first summit with President Donald Trump last year. After years of nuclear and ballistic missile tests through 2017, North Korea hasn’t conducted a similar test for more than a year.

South Korea’s defense paper cited the summitry and diplomatic efforts saying North Korea agreed to establish a new relations with the U.S. and also to work toward “complete denuclearization” during the June summit with Trump.

The report also said North Korea:

  • Possessed 50 kilograms (110 pounds) of weapons-grade plutonium and a “considerable” amount of highly enriched uranium, reaffirming 2016 assessments. It takes about 4-8 kilograms of plutonium to make a bomb.
  • Gained “considerable” skill toward miniaturizing a nuclear warhead.
  • Continues to develop nuclear bombs, ballistic missiles and biological and chemical weapons to reinforce its offensive capabilities.
  • Posseses or is developing 14 types of ballistic missiles, including five inter-continental ballistic missiles with a range of more than 5,500 kilometers (3,400 miles).
  • Commands 1.28 million active-duty military personnel, including 200,000 special warfare troops.
  • Recently established a special operations battalion for assassinations.

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