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Dagyum Ji is a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
South Korea will increase its military spending by 7 percent in 2018 in response to the growing nuclear and missile threat from North Korea, the Ministry of National Defense (MND) announced on Wednesday.
The defense ministry said the National Assembly had earlier in the day approved a budget of KRW43.2 trillion (USD$39.7 billion) to achieve “competent security and strong defense.”
The increase represents KRW40.4 billion more than that originally proposed by the Moon administration during its budget deliberations.
The military said the increase “reflected the grave security reality of North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats, which have been mounting recently.”
This is the first time that the National Assembly has voted to spend more than the government’s recommendations since 2011, and the seven percent year-on-year increase is the highest since 2009.
Seoul has allocated KRW340 million to a newly-created “special mission brigade,” which was reportedly launched on December 1.
Funding also goes to the Korea Massive Punishment and Retaliation (KMPR) program, launched by the South Korean military in the wake of the DPRK’s fifth nuclear test in September last year and part of Seoul’s “three-axis” defense system.
Part of the plan involves a unit designed to target the North Korean leadership in the event of a war, a special mission brigade composed of around a thousand soldiers.
Around KRW13.5 trillion was allotted to the “force improvement program,” establishing a response system to North Korean nuclear weapons attacks “expeditiously.”
The budget for the program increased by 10.8 percent compared to last year’s, with the National Assembly allotting an additional KRW37.8 billion more than that proposed by the Moon administration.
The three-axis system includes the Kill Chain pre-emptive strike program, Korea Air and Missile Defense (KAMD), and the KMPR.
A total of around KRW4.3 trillion will be funneled into the system, up from around KRW551 billion in 2017.
The South Korean government plans to spend around KRW6.4 trillion to “prepare for full-scale war and strengthen independent defense capabilities.”
“The ruling and opposition parties formed a consensus on the necessity of sharply increasing the defense spending to respond North Korean nuclear weapons,” the MND said in a written statement.
Major projects include the upgraded Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) missile system and the introduction of a tactical surface-to-surface guided weapon.
The budget for “preparing for local provocations” also increased by 21.7 percent, and Seoul has allotted around KRW1.6 trillion for the development of the 230mm-class multiple launch rocket system, the counter-artillery detection radar-II, and surveillance systems for major military facilities.
The South’s defense budget for 2017 came to KRW40.3 trillion, the first time it exceeded KRW40 trillion since the country’s founding.
President Moon Jae-in has pledged to increase the country’s military spending to 2.9 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) during his term.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured Image: Republic of Korea Armed Forces