South Korean government endorsed a plan Tuesday to raise next year's military budget by 9.8 percent to 22.8 trillion won (22.13 billion US dollars) to strengthen its capability, according to the South Korean Defense Ministry.
Some one-third of the budget, or 7.9 trillion won (7.67 billion dollars) will be allocated to obtain advanced arms, up 12.8 percent from this year, said a statement issued by the ministry.
"We will focus our spending on obtaining key combat capabilities to achieve the goals of the 'cooperative self-defense' policy,'" the statement said.
What the statement referred is the goal set by South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun's administration, which aims to bolster South Korea's defense capability while reducing its dependence on US troops stationed here.
The South Korean military is planning to introduce advanced Patriot missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles, Aegis-equipped destroyers, F-15K fighter jets, aircraft warning systems, multi-purpose helicopters and other high-tech combat systems, the statement said.
The remaining 14.8 trillion won (14.37 billion dollars) will be spent on improving military barracks, education and welfare programs, environmental and other facilities and maintaining the nation's 680,000-member military, said the statement.
The expanded military budget represents 10.33 percent of the government's total proposed budget spending for next fiscal year, the statement said.
The budget proposal will be sent to the National Assembly late this month for final approval.
Earlier this month, the South Korean Defense Ministry announced a set of military reform plans, highlighted by massive troop cuts and streamlining of its major Army combat organizations.
The ministry also said earlier this month it will sharply raise annual spending on defense by an average 11 percent from 2006 to 2020 to implement the reform measures.
Local media reported the South Korean Defense Ministry considered to reduce its troop level to 500,000 by the end of 2020. The US currently has 32,500 troops here. The US Forces Korea (USFK) started implementation of its troop reduction scheme from last year in South Korea, which plans to cut one third of its troop here, or 12,500, from 2004 to 2008.