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[2005/7/5] Defense Ministry seeks 12% budget increase

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Defense Ministry seeks 12% budget increase

                                                                     Korea Herald   2005.07.06

The Defense Ministry said yesterday it requested 23.3 trillion won (.4 billion) in next year's budget, up 12 percent from this year to support its five-year plan to enhance the nation's self-reliant defense capability.

The ministry said it asked the Ministry of Budget and Planning for a hike in its spending to boost current defense buildup projects and begin new ones, such as the Patriot missile system, codenamed SAM-X, by late 2006.

The move is part of its mid-term defense plan aimed at making the nation less dependent on Washington and capable of defending itself from possible North Korean aggression. The ministry's plan, unveiled in late May, includes key arms-procurement projects and hones surveillance, communication and long-range target capabilities.

"The increase is necessary for a successful push to promote cooperative self-reliant defense postures," the Defense Ministry said in a statement.

The budget would break down into 8.3 trillion won allocated for defense buildup projects and 14.9 trillion won for current outlay, up 18.1 percent and 8.9 percent, respectively, from this year's spending, the ministry said.

The ministry said it plans to spend 35.8 percent of the total defense budget to build up military capacity next year, up from this year's 33.9 percent.

The Ministry of Budget and Planning, and other ministries, will review the proposal and then pass it to the president's office. The draft will be forwarded to the National Assembly for approval during the September parliamentary session.

Last year, the ministry called for a 13.4 percent surge in its budget for 2005, but the government held it down to a 10 percent increase.

As part of its mid-term defense plan, the ministry said that it would launch a 1.1-trillion-won SAM-X project to replace its ageing arsenal of Nike Hercules missiles with Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missiles, an advanced version of the Patriot.

The ministry also plans to increase the monthly wage of a corporal-rank conscript from a current 46,000 won to 65,000 won next year and a further 80,000 won by 2007.

The move came after a series of tragic incidents committed by personnel who find it hard to adjust to the tense military environment. In June, a bullied private first class killed eight fellow soldiers in a grenade and shooting rampage at a DMZ guard post.

(hjjin@heraldm.com)

By Jin Hyun-joo

2005.07.06

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