Armed Forces Take Note of Greater Detente

Article excerpt

Korea's annual defense report this year, in a nutshell, reflects a greater detente transpiring as the result of the June 15 inter-Korean summit, but at the same time hedges against complacency by defining North Korea as the primary enemy in milder but not mistakable terms.

The Defense White Paper 2000, the Defense Ministry's 15th annual publication, was published two months later than scheduled, in order to infuse into it a series of important developments in the political atmosphere between the two Koreas.

Worthy of first and foremost note in the document is the Armed Forces' defining of Pyongyang as its main enemy. The perennial concept has been blurred amid a thaw in the Seoul-Pyongyang relationship as President Kim Dae-jung's ``Sunshine'' policy of engagement toward the North came into play.

Political parties took issue over it, claiming that a military that is confused about its enemy is not effective on the battlefield.

Ministry officials said that its designation of the North as a primary enemy was made based on the judgement that even though progress has been made in inter-Korean relations, it is undeniable that the North still poses a military threat to the security of the country and, therefore, it is too premature to discard the long-standing definition.

However, the annual report coaches this in milder lanugage.

First of all, it dropped such stronger anti-North Korea statements as ``The members of the Armed Forces should bear in mind who the enemy is and act accordingly in the time of contingency.''

Instead, an emphasis is put on the basic missions required of the soldiers. The latest white paper says, ``Soldiers should deter and defeat any outside threat, whether on land, at sea or in the air. …