North Korea no longer labelled as the 'enemy' in South Korea's Defense White Paper

Takashi Mori, Jan. 16, 2019, 9:37 a.m.

The government has officially stopped referring to North Korea as the "enemy" in the first defense white paper of the Moon Jae-in administration.

The biennial document also scraps the phrase "kill chain" and a strategy formerly dubbed "Korea massive punishment and retaliation," which the North has traditionally bristled at.

Instead of referring directly to North Korea, the white paper says, "The military regards forces which threaten and infringe on the sovereignty, territory, citizens and assets of [South Korea] as the enemy."

The Defense Ministry in a statement explained the switch. "Invasions and threats by foreign forces are not restricted to North Korea," it said. "The previous white paper reflected cross-border relations at the time."

The description of North Korea as the enemy has been scrapped and readopted several times depending on governments' ideological leanings. But the nuclear and missile threat from the North remains real, and some critics believe the defense white paper should more clearly reflect that to maintain vigilance among the armed forces.

The white paper does for the first time draw attention to North Korea's Hwasong-13 intercontinental ballistic missile and upgraded variants and points out that the North has 14 different types of missiles either warfare-ready or in development.

But it estimates North Korea's plutonium stockpile at only around 2 kg, unchanged from two years ago, raising suspicions that it deliberately downplays the threat amid signs that the North continues to produce weapons-grade plutonium.

On other fronts, Japan is simply described a nation that "is close geologically and culturally and cooperates in achieving world peace and prosperity," omitting the previous phrase, "shares the basic values of free democracy and market economy."

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