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PoliticsNorth Korea

South Korea brands North Korea an enemy state

February 16, 2023

South Korea has released a paper describing North Korea as its enemy for the first time in several years. The document highlights Pyongyang's growing stockpile of nuclear weapons and missiles.

General view of a military parade to mark the 75th founding anniversary of North Korea's army
North Korea held a parade celebrating its military earlier this monthImage: KCNA/REUTERS

A biennial study by South Korean experts on Thursday reported an increase in Pyongyang's stockpile of weapons-grade uranium and its increasing arsenal of missiles.

During a period of detente in the 2000s, South Korea ceased using such enemy terminologies, but brought them back after 50 South Korean navy sailors were killed in a 2010 torpedo attack that Seoul blamed on North Korea.

Details of the report

For the first time since 2016, the defense paper described the North Korean regime as "our enemy," citing the isolated country's military and cyber provocations.

The report said that North Korea has continued reprocessing spent fuel from its reactor and now has some 70 kilograms (154 pounds) of weapons-grade plutonium. That figure is up from 50 kilograms in a previous report for 2022, it said.

The document said Pyongyang's nuclear programs and tests were "seriously threatening our security."

"As North Korea continues to pose military threats without giving up nuclear weapons, its regime and military, which are the main agents of the execution, are our enemies," the document said.

The paper said the North had violated a 2018 inter-Korean military pact that bans hostilities on 15 occasions in the last year alone.

These included the firing of artillery inside a military buffer zone and the launching of missiles launched across the de-facto maritime border into the South in November.

Kim Jong Un joined by daughter at massive military parade

In a description that remains unchanged since 2018, the report said Pyongyang had secured "substantial" amounts of highly enriched uranium" and a "significant level of capability" to miniaturize atomic bombs.

Crucially, the document noted that the North had itself defined the South as an "undoubted enemy" in December 2022. "Therefore, the North Korean regime and the North Korean military, which are the main agents of the activities, are our enemy," it said.

Peninsular rivals remain in state of war

North and South Korea have remained technically at war since the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice rather than a peace treaty. A rare spell of diplomacy in 2019 came to an end, and talks have stalled with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un renewing an emphasis on military development.

Kim last year declared his country an "irreversible" nuclear state. The North has carried out sanctions-breaching weapons tests nearly every month since, including the test launch of its most advanced intercontinental ballistic missile.

Seoul's new conservative administration has responded by seeking a stronger US security commitment, ramping up joint drills, and boosting its own military capabilities.

rc/fb (AP, AFP)