About the Author
View more articles by Dagyum Ji
Dagyum Ji is a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
The South Korean military will increase its budget for improving military capabilities by 10.8 percent on average for the next half-decade, the Ministry of National Defense (MND) announced in a five-year plan on Friday.
The “medium-term plan” for 2019 to 2023 will see the government allocate a total of KRW 270.7 trillion (USD$242 billion) to defense.
That spending will see Seoul increase its defense spending by an average of 7.5 percent year on year — well above the average rate of 4.9 percent between 2009 and 2018.
The budget increase aims to implement policies, including Seoul’s “Defense Reform 2.0” program, aimed at allowing Seoul to “respond to any kind of threat in an uncertain security environment.”
In the five-year blueprint, KRW94.1 trillion (USD$84.3 billion) and KRW176.6 trillion (USD$158.2 billion) will be allocated respectively to the five-year “force improvement program” and “force maintenance.”
South Korea’s force improvement program includes its indigenous defense system and next-generation weapon systems development.
Seoul plans to increase the budget for that program by an average of 10.8 percent, the MND said, with the goal of “establishing a military power which can prepare for threats from all directions.”
A total of KRW 65.6 trillion (USD$ 58.8 billion), it continued, will be allocated to “secure the South Korean military’s core capabilities to respond to nuclear and WMD (weapons of mass destruction) threats and to take OPCON (operational control).”
The allocation also aims to build “strategic deterrence capabilities” which enable the South Korean military to respond to “comprehensive threats.”
Without making mention of North Korea, the ROK MND said the plans would secure and enhance Seoul’s “strategic target strike capability” by procuring equipment including a reconnaissance satellite, mid and high-altitude surveillance drones, and long-range air-to-surface guided missiles.
Seoul will also develop a “Korean-style missile defense capability” by improving the performance of early warning radars for the detection of ballistic missiles, the Air and Missile Defense Cell (AMD–Cell), and the Cheolmae-2 medium-range surface-to-air missile (KM-SAM).
Through the use of advanced missiles and other military assets, the ROK military will secure Seoul’s “overwhelming response capability,” according to the five-year plan.
The three new capabilities stem from the now-defunct three-axis defense system, which the government had previously aimed to complete by 2022 as part of efforts to counter the nuclear and missile threat from Pyongyang.
The platform consisted of the so-called “Kill Chain” pre-emptive strike program, Korea Air and Missile Defense (KAMD), and the Korea Massive Punishment and Retaliation (KMPR) systems.
Thursday saw the ROK MND announce that the three-axis defense system has been changed to what can roughly be translated as a “system to respond to nuclear and WMDs,” expanding its target range and capabilities.
The Kill Chain, the KAMD, and the KMPR have been renamed, respectively, as “strategic target strike,” “Korean-style missile defense,” and “overwhelming response,” the ministry said in a statement.
Seoul has decided that it was necessary to complement and develop the concept and structure of the three-pronged defense system to “actively deal with nuclear and WMD threats,” the MND said.
In the five-year plan, the defense ministry also on Friday said the South Korean military will seek to continuously improve its core capability to allow it to take the lead in U.S.-ROK combined defense.
To this end, Seoul will double its capacity to conduct counter-fire operations by deploying 230mm multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS) and counter-battery radars, as well as secure more precision-guided munitions.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured Image: ROK MND