South Korea military study declares North “enemy,” estimates plutonium stockpile at 70 kg

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south korea military study declares north enemy, estimates plutonium stockpile at 70 kg

Thursday, February 16 was the first time in six years that South Korea has referred to North Korea as its “enemy” and reported an increase in Pyongyang’s stockpile of weapons-grade plutonium.

The yearly white paper provides a peek of the secretive North’s expanding nuclear and conventional military arsenals.

The North Korean dictatorship and military were referred to as “our adversary” for the first time since its 2016 edition, noting Pyongyang’s continuous weapons development, cyber and military provocations, and its recent characterization of the South as a “enemy.”

“As long as North Korea continues to pose military threats without giving up its nuclear weapons, its dictatorship and military, the principal agents of execution, are our adversaries,” the paper stated.

North Korea has begun reprocessing spent fuel from its reactor and now owns around 70kg (154lb) of weapons-grade plutonium, an increase over the previous estimate of 50kg.

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Six nuclear tests have yielded “considerable” volumes of highly enriched uranium and a “substantial degree of capability” to miniaturize atomic weapons, a definition that has not altered since 2018.

“Our military is increasing monitoring as the likelihood of an additional nuclear test rises,” a newspaper said, noting the repair of previously wrecked tunnels at North Korea’s testing site during the last year.

The North allegedly breached an inter-Korean military treaty prohibiting hostilities 15 times in 2018 alone, including a drone incursion in December, artillery fire inside a military buffer zone, and missiles launched across the de facto sea boundary into the South in November.

In its 2020 edition, the report stated that North Korea was “mostly” complying with the deal, which was signed during the 2018 summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and then-South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

The most recent report recognized Pyongyang’s launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles in 2022, as well as the testing of the new Hwasong-17, but stated that further study is required to determine whether it has obtained superior missile re-entry capability.

For the first time since 2016, the daily referred to Japan as a “close neighbor with shared values” amidst efforts to heal relations damaged by history and trade disputes.

Read More: With the tourist boom, the Philippines aims to become Asia’s “cruise hub”

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