South Korea labels North ‘enemy’, signalling harder line

Thursday, December 30, 2010

SEOUL - South Korea Thursday upgraded North Korea to an “enemy” after a South Korean warship was sunk, its neighbour shelled one of its islands and beefed up its military forces.

The label contained in a Defence Ministry white paper was raised from the “serious threat” or “direct and serious threat” contained in the North Korean assessments since 2004 but did not go as far as white papers from 1995 to 2000 when North Korea was determined to be the South’s “main enemy”.

“The North poses a serious threat to security by developing and augmenting massive conventional military capabilities and weapons of mass destruction, such as nuclear weapons and missiles, and through constant armed provocations like the torpedo attack on the Navy corvette Cheonan and the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island,” the paper released by the Defence Ministry said, according to media reports. “As long as the threat continues, the North Korean regime and military, the perpetrators of all such provocations, are an enemy.”

Deputy Minister Chang Kwang Il said the label was meant as a strong message to Pyongyang and emphasised that the regime there and its military were the antagonist, not its people.

“Not using the expression ‘main enemy’ does not mean that we softened our stance,” Chang was quoted as saying by the Yonhap News Agency.

Tensions have spiked this year after the Cheonan’s March sinking, which killed 46 sailors, and the island’s shelling November 23, which killed four.

The white paper indicated the South would take a harder line against the North after the government in Seoul and its military were criticised for taking too slow and too lax a response to the Yeonpyeong artillery attack.

It also said it would focus on preparing North Koreans for reunification.

In a look at the North’s military capabilities, the white paper said it had increased its special forces by 20,000 soldiers to 200,000 in the past two years and deployed new battle tanks called Storm Tigers.

“Threats from North Korea’s asymmetric warfare capabilities, such as special forces, artillery pieces and weapons of mass destruction have been on a steady rise since 2008,” Chang said.

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