Seoul declares North Korea 'enemy' for first time in six years in defense report

Seoul declared North Korea an "enemy" for the first time in six years in a new defense white paper released Thursday. Photo courtesy of KCNA/EPA-EFE
Seoul declared North Korea an "enemy" for the first time in six years in a new defense white paper released Thursday. Photo courtesy of KCNA/EPA-EFE

SEOUL, Feb. 16 (UPI) -- South Korea labeled North Korea's regime and military an "enemy" for the first time in six years in a new policy report released by its Defense Ministry on Thursday, warning of Pyongyang's growing nuclear threat and hostile stance toward the South.

"While possessing a large-scale conventional military force, North Korea is advancing weapons of mass destruction such as nuclear weapons and missiles," the 2022 Defense White Paper said.


The biennial report pointed to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's declaration of the South as an enemy at a plenary meeting of the ruling party's Central Committee in December.

"The North defined us as an 'undoubted enemy' ... and continues to pose military threats without giving up nuclear weapons," the paper said. "Because of this, the North Korean regime and the North Korean military, which are the main agents [of the threat], are our enemies."


The white paper is the first under the administration of President Yoon Suk-yeol, who took office in May and has staked out a stronger stance against North Korea than his liberal predecessor Moon Jae-in. The term "enemy" was absent in the 2018 and 2020 reports issued during the Moon administration, which pursued a diplomatic push to improve inter-Korean relations.

The conservative Yoon has pledged that he would take a "peace through strength" approach to North Korea, which the new defense report reflected.

"Under the belief that sustainable peace can be achieved not by the goodwill of the other party but by the superiority of power, the South Korean military will further strengthen its military readiness posture against North Korea," the white paper said.

The report provided a rundown of the North's conventional forces and growing stockpile of missiles and weapons of mass destruction. It estimated that North Korea had produced about 155 pounds of plutonium for nuclear weapons -- an increase from the 110 pounds cited in the 2020 report.

The document's release comes a week after North Korea held a massive military parade where it showed off at least 11 Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missiles, which are believed capable of reaching anywhere in the United States and can potentially be fitted with multiple warheads.


The white paper stated that it was unclear whether the missiles are capable of successfully re-entering the atmosphere to deliver a nuclear payload, however.

"All ICBM test launches were carried out only at high angles and have a range that can threaten the U.S. mainland," the paper said. "[But] additional confirmation is needed to determine whether ICBM core technologies such as re-entry are secured."

The Defense Ministry also emphasized strengthened military cooperation with the United States. The allies have conducted an expanded range of joint exercises under the Yoon administration and Washington has reaffirmed its pledge of extended deterrence against North Korean nuclear threats.

"Based on the strong South Korea-U.S. alliance, we will establish an all-around defense posture to deter North Korea's provocations in advance and acquire the ability to resolutely punish them in case of provocations," the paper said.

The ministry also described Japan as a "close neighbor" for the first time since 2018, as Seoul looks to improve chilly relations with Tokyo and step up bilateral security cooperation.

The white paper was released in a Korean-language version Thursday. The ministry said it will publish versions in English, Japanese, Chinese and Russian in the first half of the year.


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