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S Korea White Paper calls North ‘enemy’ amid Korean Peninsula tensions

Missiles are displayed during a military parade to mark the 75th founding anniversary of North Korea's army, at Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang, February 8, 2023, in this photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). (Via Reuters)

South Korea has called the nuclear-armed North its “enemy” in a new defense White Paper, signaling a further hardening of Seoul’s position toward Pyongyang.

North Korea “defined us as an 'undoubted enemy' in December 2022,” said the document, officially released Thursday. “Therefore, the North Korean regime and the North Korean military, which are the main agents of the activities, are our enemy.”

The document cites Pyongyang's ongoing weapons development, cyber and military provocations and its recent portrayal of the South as an "enemy."

The biennial White Paper also offers a glimpse into the reclusive North's growing arsenal of nuclear weapons and missiles, as well as its conventional military capabilities.

To beef up its nuclear stockpile, North Korea has continued reprocessing spent fuel from its reactor and possesses about 70 kilograms of weapons-grade plutonium, up from 50 kilograms estimated in the previous report, it said.

The White Paper first described Pyongyang as an enemy in 1994, and the term was used until around 2000. It was dropped for a few years but then reappeared in 2010, after North Korea was accused of sinking a South Korean warship. It was dropped again under South Korea’s former President Moon Jae-in, who championed engagement with Pyongyang.

South Korea's current President Yoon Suk Yeol took over from Moon in May 2022, vowing to get tough on the North. Seoul's new conservative administration has also ramped up joint drills with key ally Washington over the past few months.

Last year, the North Korean leader declared his county an "irreversible" nuclear state and carried out weapons tests nearly every month, including firing its most advanced intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). Pyongyang has also conducted missile tests at an unprecedented pace and is gearing up to carry out its seventh nuclear test any time, Seoul's officials were cited as saying in local reports.

Yoon claimed recently that his government is willing to provide economic aid if Pyongyang takes steps toward denuclearization. North Korea, however, snubbed the gesture and openly criticized the president.

North Korea conducted its sixth nuclear test in September 2017. However, during inconclusive negotiations later with the US, it dismantled a nuclear facility and has not conducted any other nuclear tests since then.

North Korea says it will not relinquish its nuclear deterrence unless the US ends its hostile policy and dissolves the US-led UN command in South Korea.

The Korean Peninsula has been locked in a cycle of military rhetoric since the Korean War, which lasted from 1950 to 1953 and ended in an armistice. No peace deal has been signed since then, meaning that Pyongyang and Seoul remain technically at war.

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