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N.K. not ‘main enemy’ in Seoul defense paper

The Ministry of National Defense has decided not to describe North Korea as a main enemy in its defense policy paper, which will be published this week, a senior official said Sunday.

Following a recent series of North Korean provocations including the Nov. 23 artillery attack on Yeonpyeong Island, calls have been mounting to revive the sensitive term, which disappeared in the defense white paper six years ago.

Some have argued that military discipline has grown lax without any particular subject set for the military to fight against while others said that reviving the term would only cause inter-Korean ties to deteriorate.

“Internally, the North Korean military is already defined as a main enemy and externally it is also described as an enemy. So, we have decided not to include the term in the defense whitepaper,” said the official on condition of anonymity.

The ministry said that although the North will not be directly referred to as a main enemy in the whitepaper, a “stronger” expression that clearly contains the meaning of the main enemy will be used. The white paper is scheduled to be published on Thursday.

The North was first referred to as the main enemy in South Korea’s defense policy paper in 1995 amid chilled bilateral relations. In the 2004 version, the term was replaced by “direct military threat” amid a more conciliatory mood.

The reference to the North as the main enemy in the 1995 whitepaper ― issued under former President Kim Young-sam ― came after a North Korean official made hostile remarks during working-level inter-Korean talks held at the truce village of Panmunjeom in March 1994.

The talks on the exchange of special envoys broke up after the North’s representative Park Young-su said, “Seoul is not far from here. When a war breaks out, Seoul will turn into a sea of fire.”

The term continued to remain in the 2000 version, issued under former President Kim Dae-jung. However, the government, following the first-ever inter-Korean summit in 2000, deleted some of the sensitive terms, apparently taking into account improving bilateral relations.

In the 2004 version, issued under former President Roh Moo-hyun who inherited the policy of engaging the North from his predecessor, the term was replaced by “direct military threat,” which was further softened with the term, “existing North Korean military threat” in the 2006 version.

By Song Sang-ho (
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Korea Herald daum