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#Hot Issues of the Week l 2021-02-07
South Korea released the 2020 defense white paper on Tuesday, discussing not only South Korea’s current defense capabilities, but also the military status of North Korea.
North Korea has expanded its ballistic missile units, strengthened special forces with modernized equipment and reinforced exercises to attack strategic targets, such as South Korea's presidential office.
These were some of the changes in the North Korean military outlined in the 2020 edition of South Korea's biennial defense white paper that the Defense Ministry unveiled online and offline Tuesday.
The document noted that North Korea now has 13 missile brigades under its strategic force command, an addition of four units since 2018.
The units are believed to operate short-range Scud missiles that aim to strike South Korean targets, Rodong missiles with a range of around one-thousand-300 kilometers and Musudan missiles that can fly three-thousand kilometers, putting the strategic U.S. military base in Guam within range.
The defense white paper also compares the military capacities of the two Koreas.
North Korea has two-point-three times more reserve forces compared to the South Korean Army - around one-point-28 million to 555-thousand, as of late last year.
The North has larger capacity in terms of field artillery and multiple rocket launchers, but the South exceeds in advancement as it continues to acquire and develop cutting-edge weapons.
Seoul and Washington have drawn up "customized deterrence strategies," as Pyongyang reinforces its asymmetric power, including nuclear arms, weapons of mass destruction(WMD) and various ballistic missiles.
The South Korean military is establishing strategically guided munitions and a domestically developed missile defense system for independent deterrence.
Meanwhile, the Moon Jae-in administration avoided directly referring to North Korea as an enemy in the paper, though it does reiterate its 2018 stance that the military considers forces that threaten or violate South Korea's sovereignty, territory, people and property as an enemy.
Amid frayed Seoul-Tokyo relations over historical and trade issues, the paper referred to Japan as a "neighboring country," rather than a "partner" as mentioned in the past, with which to cooperate on peace and prosperity in Northeast Asia and beyond.
It said Seoul will sternly respond to Tokyo's historical distortions, false claim to the Dokdo islets and unilateral and arbitrary actions on pending issues.
On Tuesday, Japan expressed regret over what was written about the Dokdo islets in the defense paper and also demanded an appropriate response from Seoul to incidents involving Japanese patrol planes.
In a press release Wednesday, Seoul’s Defense Ministry said that in response to Tokyo's protest, a military attache at the South Korean Embassy in Japan made it clear that the contents were objective facts.