Estimating a plutonium stockpile of 70 kg, North Korea called ‘enemy’ by South Korea

North Korea was labeled as an “enemy” by South Korea for the first time in six years in the latest defence white paper released on Thursday. The paper also reported an increase in Pyongyang’s stockpile of weapons-grade plutonium.

A glimpse into North Korea’s growing arsenal of nuclear weapons and missiles as well as its conventional military capabilities was offered in the biennial white paper.

The paper published in 2022 revived the description of North Korea and its military as “our enemy”, the term was last used in a 2016 paper, citing the ongoing weapons development in Pyongyang, cyber and military provocations and its recent portrayal of South as an “enemy.”

“As North Korea continues to pose military threats without giving up nuclear weapons, its regime and military, which are the main agents of the execution, are our enemies,” the document said.

North Korea has continued reprocessing of spent fuel from its reactor to beef up its nuclear stockpile and possesses about 70kg of weapons-grade plutonium, up from 50kg estimate in the previous report.

The North has also secured “substantial” amounts of highly enriched uranium and a “significant level of capability” in an attempt to miniaturise atomic bombs through six nuclear tests.

“Our military is strengthening surveillance as the possibility of an additional nuclear test is rising,” citing the restoration last year of previously destroyed tunnels at the North’s testing site, the paper said.

The paper said the North violated a 2018 pact between the Korean military that banned hostilities 15 times last year alone, including its drone intrusion in December, artillery fire inside a military buffer zone and missiles launched across the de facto maritime border in November.

Sealed on the margins of a 2018 summit between the North Korean leader and then-South Korean President, the 2020 edition of the paper said the North was “generally” complying with the agreement.

Pyongyang’s 2022 launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles, including the new Hwasong-17 tests were noted by the latest document. But it said further analysis was needed to verify whether it has acquired improved missile re-entry technology.


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