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W900b of defense budget to be cut for emergency relief funds

F-35A (Yonhap)
F-35A (Yonhap)

About 900 billion won ($733 million) will be cut from this year's defense budget as the government pushes to fund an extra budget in the wake of the coronavirus crisis without issuing bonds, officials said Thursday.

Earlier in the day, the finance ministry unveiled a second extra budget of 7.6 trillion won to cushion the economic fallout from COVID-19, saying it will readjust this year's annual budget to fund the plan, rather than issuing bonds.

The defense budget was among the most sharply cut items.

A total of 904.7 billion won -- 192.7 billion won from operating expenses and 712 billion won from arms procurement expenses -- will be slashed from the defense spending plans, raising concerns over the possible impact on the country's defense capabilities.

But the defense ministry said much of the adjusted funds were expected not to be used anyways due to the coronavirus. The government has modified plans for new arms contracts or combined exercises following the virus outbreak.

"Regarding new businesses, the contract schedules, including those for overseas tests and evaluations, have already been postponed due to the coronavirus situation, so we cut the budget taking into consideration such delays," said Kim Il-dong, the director general of the ministry's Military Force Policy Bureau.

The government will also partially adjust payment schedules for the introduction of F-35A stealth fighters and an Aegis destroyer system from this year to next year.

"No delay in introduction or deployment of any equipment is expected due to the budget cut," Kim said.

South Korea's budget for the military was set at 50.15 trillion won this year, up 7.4 percent from last year's 46.7 trillion won. (Yonhap)

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