SEOUL, Sept. 24 (Xinhuanet) -- The South Korean government has set a defense
budget of 18.94 trillion won (16.18 billion US dollars) for the year of 2004, up
by 8.1 percent from that of 2003, The Korea Herald reported Wednesday.
The hike is the largest increase in five years, said the English-language
The government approved a total of 117.5 trillion won (100.42 billion
dollars) budget for 2004 on Tuesday, up by 2.1 percent from that of 2003.
The national defense budget rise was aimed at reinforcing the deterrence
capability of the country's armed forces in order to effectively cope with the
changing security circumstances in the Northeast Asian region, including the
planned repositioning of theUS troops stationed here, said the newspaper.
The United States and South Korea have agreed to relocate some of the
37,000-strong US troops deployed near inter-Korean border to some other place.
Under an agreement reached by the two countries earlier, Seoul pledged to
shoulder more defense responsibilities in the coming years.
Of the 18.94 trillion won earmarked for defense needs, 6.3 trillion won
(5.4 billion dollars) will be spent on new weapons systems. Some of the rest of
the defense budget will go to improving the living conditions of enlisted
soldiers, including new barracks and higher wages.
Earlier this year, US Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul D. Wolfowitz urged
Seoul to increase its defense budget which only accounts for 2.7 percent of the
Asian country's gross domestic product (GDP).
The South Korean government planned to raise the rate
to 3.5 percent in the years to come. Enditem