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(LEAD) S. Korea to revive 'enemy' expression for N.K. regime, military in defense white paper: sources

All News 14:12 December 06, 2022

(ATTN: UPDATES with more info in last 4 paras)
By Song Sang-ho and Yi Wonju

SEOUL, Dec. 6 (Yonhap) -- South Korea plans to revive a reference to the North Korean regime and its military as an "enemy" in its defense white paper to be published next month under the conservative administration of President Yoon Suk-yeol, government sources said Tuesday.

The move comes in the wake of Pyongyang's relentless weapons tests, including the launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile launch last month and the firing this week of artillery shells into maritime "buffer zones" set under a 2018 inter-Korean accord to reduce tensions.

"An expression referring to the North Korean regime and its military as an enemy has been included in the draft of the white paper," a source said on condition of anonymity.

Before his inauguration on May 10, Yoon's transition team announced 110 key policy tasks, including considering reinstating the "enemy" label for the North Korean military in the biennial defense white paper and other documents.

In line with the task, Seoul's defense ministry has distributed troop education materials that describe the North's military as an enemy.



This file photo shows a page of South Korea's 2020 defense white paper. (Yonhap)

This file photo shows a page of South Korea's 2020 defense white paper. (Yonhap)

The North Korean military was first referred to as an "enemy" in the defense policy paper in 1995 after a Pyongyang official threatened to turn Seoul into a "sea of flames." In the 2004 version, the expression was replaced by a "direct military threat" amid a conciliatory mood.

The enemy description was revived in 2010 as the North torpedoed a South Korean corvette in March of that year, killing 46 sailors, and launched an artillery attack on a border island in November, killing two soldiers and two civilians. The expression stayed until the 2016 edition of the paper.

But the enemy label disappeared in the white papers that the then liberal Moon Jae-in administration published in 2018 and 2020 amid its drive for cross-border reconciliation.

The South's unification ministry in charge of inter-Korean affairs said the expression "enemy," if reinstated in the document, would not signal a setback in its push for dialogue and reconciliation with the North.

"The use of the expression 'enemy' ... is based on the characteristics of the military's operations," a ministry official told reporters. "Let me make it clear that our military's use of the expression does not mean a refusal in inter-Korean dialogue and cooperation."

Meanwhile, it remains to be seen whether the South will label the North's military as a "main enemy" in the defense paper, a stronger expression against Pyongyang.

In early January, when the North fired a ballistic missile, Yoon described it as the "main enemy" in a social media post, reaffirming his tough stance on the nuclear-armed nation.


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