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S. Korea labels Japan 'neighbor' not 'partner'; omits N. Korea 'enemy' reference Updated: 2021-02-03 03:55:16 KST

South Korea, in its latest defense white paper, calls Japan just "neighboring country," reflecting the chill in their bilateral ties.
The description is a clear downgrade from as recently as 2018 when it called Japan a "partner."
In the report, the defense ministry pointed out that issues like Japan's false claims to the Dokdo islets and its ban on certain high-tech exports to South Korea hinder the development of a future-oriented relationship.
Seoul said it will deal with these matters strictly, but also pledged to continue seeking cooperation for peace and stability in the region.
Japan's own white paper last year deleted a passage about pursuing "a broad range of cooperation" with South Korea.
As for North Korea, Seoul's white paper omitted previous references to the regime as the "enemy," as it has done since 2018.
Rather, it reiterated that enemies are those forces that "threaten or violate the country's sovereignty, territory, people or property."
Analysts see this as a careful approach aimed at establishing trust with the North militarily.

"It's a transition period from cold relations to more cooperative ties. The two Koreas are in a trust-building process militarily, so there's no need to construct conflict by calling the North an enemy."

The paper then added that regime's weapons of mass destruction threaten peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula.
In such reports until the year 2000, South Korea had called the North the "main enemy," but after that only as a "threat," and then eliminated such direct labels for the first time in 2018.
Kim Dami, Arirang News.
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