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Budget for Seoul’s own anti-missile system “dramatically” slashed: lawmaker

South Korea’s 2018 budget for developing its own missile defense system against North Korea’s ballistic missiles and nuclear attack has been slashed compared to this year, an opposition lawmaker claimed Tuesday.

The government, instead, allotted more money to bankroll President Moon Jae-in’s election pledges -- a hike in enlisted soldiers’ wages and a cut in the mandatory service period, said Rep. Kim Hack-yong of Liberty Korea Party, citing next year’s budget plan of the Ministry of National Defense and Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The revelation came amid mounting criticism from opposition parties that the Moon administration is failing to come up with effective deterrence and counter-attack strategies against North Korea’s ever-evolving military threat following its sixth nuclear test on Sept. 3.

“If the government is channeling the money allotted to protecting us from North Korea’s nuclear and missile attacks into fulfilling (the president’s) election pledges, this shows grave insensitivity to our security threat,” said Kim in a statement.

North Korea`s state-run Korean Central News Agecny released afootage of missile launches in August. Yonhap
North Korea`s state-run Korean Central News Agecny released afootage of missile launches in August. Yonhap

According to the lawmaker, the government reduced some 55.9 billion won ($49 million) worth of budget requested by the defense military for building South Korea’s three-layered anti-missile system: Kill Chain system, the Korea Air Missile Defense system, and Korea Massive Punishment and Retaliation plan.

The Defense Ministry had initially requested 136.9 billion won to develop and acquire key components of the anti-missile system, Kim said. The military sought to accomplish the system by early 2020 and will spend about 10 trillion won over the next five years.

In the meantime, the government increased the budget for raising the salary of the enlisted soldiers to about 1.81 trillion won, up from the Defense Ministry’s request of 1.77 billion won. The money for recruiting military officers rose to about 73.1 billion won, up from the ministry’s request of 70.4 billion won, he added.

“I will get to the bottom of why the government failed to incorporate the Defense Ministry’s request into the government’s budget plan and how such a decision could undermine our security posture,” the lawmakers said.

In August, the government allocated some 43 trillion won for the 2018 defense budget, about a 6.9 percent increase from the previous year. Of that, about 4.3 trillion won will be spent on building a three-layered platform and other military systems to counter North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction.

Kill Chain is designed to detect signs of an imminent launch from the North and strike missile facilities before they are launched. KAMD involves shooting down the missiles mid-air before they reach their intended target. KMPR is about striking Pyongyang’s command posts in the event of nuclear attacks.

Regarding the Kill Chain system, the government scrapped a 500 million won allocation for acquiring graphite bombs designed to neutralize North Korea’s electronic system and 400 million won for developing a tactical ground-to-ground guidance system to counter the North’s long-range artillery units, Kim said. 

Some projects to fund KAMD and KMPR scheme faced cutbacks, such as a 5 billion won for adopting US advanced Patriot interceptors, PAC-3 system, and 300 million won for developing unmanned aerial vehicles designed to conduct “decapitation plan” against North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un, the lawmaker claimed.

By Yeo Jun-suk (