South Korea stops calling North Korea 'enemy' in defence white paper

The two Koreas have about one million troops near their border and have yet to reach a peace treaty to end the 1950-53 Korean War.
The two Koreas have about one million troops near their border and have yet to reach a peace treaty to end the 1950-53 Korean War. PHOTO: AFP

SEOUL (BLOOMBERG) - South Korea dropped a reference to North Korea as its enemy in its Defence Ministry white paper for the first time since 2010, reflecting warming ties between the neighbours still technically at war.

In a biannual report released on Tuesday (Jan 15), the ministry said that North Korea's weapons of mass destruction remained a threat. But it no longer described North Korea's military provocations or cyber attacks as the main threat to its security.

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 one million troops near their border and have yet to reach a peace treaty to end the 1950-53 Korean War.

Instead, the report, which lays out South Korea's defence and security goals for the next two years, said that any power that threatened the country's independence or its territory would be considered an enemy.

South Korea has previously called North Korea as its enemy or main enemy. During two past liberal administrations, the reference of enemy has been softened to threat. After North Korea's deadly shelling of a South Korean island and naval vessel in 2010, the reference reappeared.

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

South Korea's defence white paper cited the summitry and diplomatic efforts, saying that North Korea agreed to establish new relations with the United States as well as to work towards "complete denuclearisation" during the June summit with President Trump in Singapore.