[EDITORIALS]Where’s the financing?The Defense Ministry has announced a plan for enhancing the nation’s defense capability during the period from 2006 to 2010. Under the plan, the ministry says it will procure 10 state-of-the-art weapons, including high-performance fighter planes, AWACS (airborne warning and control system) planes and next-generation escort ships.
The problem is, how can it provide the enormous amount of money needed for the plan? The ministry estimates the total would amount to 12 trillion won ($12 billion). But the budget alloted to the ministry for the plan during the five-year period is only 800 billion won. It means that the ministry is promoting the plan with only 6 percent of the budget in hand. How can such a plan be fulfilled? It is a pity that the ministry has announced a plan that cannot be implemented.
The ministry says that, for the plan, the defense budget, which stands at 2.5 percent of gross domestic product, will be raised to 2.7 percent by 2010. But it is not a persuasive explanation. When the defense budget is raised by 0.1 percent of the national budget, defense spending will increase by 800 billion won. But as the ministry must pay for the operating expenses and investment in existing combat capabilities from the amount, the budget available for new procurement will not be so large. For example, it is difficult to calculate how many years it will take to complete a project like the “new generation” fighter procurement, which will cost a total of 5 trillion won. In the case of state-of-the-art weapons, they can become obsolete by the time they are actually bought, if the procurement takes a long time.
No country will reject an independent national defense, but it has to pay a price. South Korea has been enjoying a free ride thanks to the U.S. Forces in Korea. The transfer of military arms in the hands of the U.S. troops in Korea is said to cost over 100 trillion won. How can we finance it? This is the reason we need the U.S. troops in Korea. Without financial backing, shouting out “independent national defense” is nothing but futile word play. The government must explain to the public that we have to sacrifice some other things if we are to attain independence in national defense and seek the people’s approval. If not, our national security will be ruined in the midst of word play.