Photo/IllutrationA North Korean flag flutters in the wind atop a 160-meter tower in North Korea's Gijungdongseen village, as seen from the Taesungdong freedom village inside the demilitarized zone in Paju, South Korea, on April 27, 2018. (AP file photo)

SEOUL--South Korea stopped calling North Korea an "enemy" in its biennial defense document published Tuesday, an apparent effort to continue reconciliation with Pyongyang.

The development comes as U.S. and North Korean leaders are looking to set up their second summit to defuse an international standoff over the North's nuclear program.

South Korea's defense ministry white paper published and posted on its website doesn't include typical terms labeling North Korea its "enemy, "present enemy" or "main enemy."

The terminologies have been a long-running source of animosity between the Koreas because the North called it a provocation that demonstrated how hostile the South was.

South Korea first called North Korea a "main enemy" in its 1995 document, a year after North Korea threatened to turn Seoul into "sea of fire."

During a previous era of detente in the 2000s South Korea had avoided using the reference, but it revived the "enemy" terminology in its defense document after attacks blamed on North Korea killed 50 South Koreans in 2010.

In the latest defense document, South Korea's military said it considers unspecified "forces which threaten (South Korea)'s sovereignty, territory, citizens and property our enemy."

North Korea's state media hasn't immediately responded.

The change in terminology is certain to draw harsh criticism from conservatives in South Korea, who argue liberal President Moon Jae-in's push to engage the North has deeply undermined the country's security posture.

Under tension-easing agreements reached after Moon's summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in September, the two Koreas demolished some of their front-line guard posts, established buffer zones along their frontier and demilitarized their shared border village.

Many conservatives in South Korea have lashed out at the steps, saying South Korea shouldn't have agreed on such conventional arms-reduction programs because North Korea's nuclear threat remains unchanged.

Broader global diplomacy aimed at ridding North Korea of its nuclear weapons hasn't achieved a breakthrough since Kim's summit with U.S. President Donald Trump in Singapore last June.

Prospects for a second U.S.-North Korea summit have been boosted after Kim traveled to China last week in what experts say was a trip aimed at coordinating positions ahead of talks with Trump.