North Korea was not defined as an “enemy” state in South Korea’s biennial defense white paper published Tuesday. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | License Photo
Feb. 2 (UPI) -- South Korea's biennial defense white paper omitted references to North Korea as an "enemy" state for the second time in two years, while referring to Japan as a "neighboring country" but no longer a "close neighbor and partner."
The document released Tuesday, reflecting the views of the current administration of President Moon Jae-in, defined an enemy of the state as a force that threatens the territory and sovereignty of South Korea, as well as its people and property. But it did not identify Pyongyang as a foe, KBS reported.
Defense ministry spokesman Boo Seung-chan said the white paper is a forward-looking study and includes "results of smart defense innovation," a reference to the military's strategy of integrating artificial intelligence and robotics.
The omission comes after decades of using the "enemy" term to refer to North Korea, a regime established after founder Kim Il Sung refused to recognize the results of a United Nations-sponsored election on the peninsula in 1948.
South Korea has referred to the North as an enemy state in its defense white paper since 1994, when North Korean delegate Park Yong Soo vowed to turn the city of Seoul into a "sea of fire," according to local paper Asia Business on Tuesday.
Under progressive administrations, including in its 2004 defense white paper, Seoul replaced the term with "direct military threats" in reference to North Korea. The word returned to use after the 2010 shelling of South Korea's Yeonpyeong Island under conservative President Lee Myung-bak.
While Moon has pledged to make progress on North Korea despite setbacks, including Pyongyang's demolition of the inter-Korean liaison office in Kaesong, he has struggled to reach an agreement with Japan on historical disputes.
Japan was referred to as a neighbor, but not a close neighbor or partner, in the white paper, reflecting the deteriorating relationship, according to KBS.
South Korea has taken issue with Japan's territorial claims over the Dokdo Islets, and has said it would take firm measures against any "unilateral" Japanese moves on Dokdo, according to the report.