South Korea has increased its defense budget to 40.34 trillion won (US$34 billion) for 2017 from 38.8 trillion won ( US$33 billion) in 2016 to counter the threats from North Korea.
“The government has increased the budget by 4 percent,” the Ministry of National Defense said in a statement Monday.
The annual defense budget exceeded 40 trillion won for the first time ever and accounts for 10 percent of the country's overall budget worth 400.5 trillion won for next year, the ministry said.
From the total budget, about 28.14 trillion won will be spent on operating military forces and facilities, with 12.2 trillion won set aside to bolster combat capabilities.
The Ministry of National Defense in June this year had actually requested a 40.87 trillion won ($35.1 billion) defense budget for 2017. It had marked a 5.3 percent increase from 38.8 trillion won in 2016, The Korea Herald reported earlier.
According to the budget request submitted to the Ministry of Strategy and Finance, the ministry's plans were to spend 12.48 trillion won on enhancing its defensive capabilities, up to 7.2 percent from this year.
About 1.6 trillion won was planned to be spent specifically on establishing the Korean Air and Missile Defense and Kill Chain systems against the North’s ballistic missiles, which is aimed to be complete by the mid-2020s.
The boosted budget plan also includes establishing missile defense systems against the North Korean missile threats. This is also the key component of the annually announced five-year defense plans and to bolster welfare of the troops.
The indigenous defense system is part of Seoul’s plan to boost its self-defense capacities before South Korea’s regains wartime operation control of its troops from Washington.
The OPCON transition, originally slated to take place in 2012, was delayed multiple times before the allies agreed on a conditional transfer around mid-2020s.
About 7.8 percent of the budget is allocated to research and development, including the ongoing KF-X project to develop the country’s first homegrown fighter jets.
Other plans included were completing fortification of the military camps located in the islands near the de facto maritime inter-Korea borders in the West Sea and paving some 57 kilometer of road for strategic purposes.
The Defense Ministry will coordinate with the Finance Ministry to confirm the budgets, which will be presented to the National Assembly for approval early September.
North Korea has carried two nuclear tests in January and September, and launched more than 20 missiles this year alone.
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