President plans to increase defense spending

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President plans to increase defense spending

President Moon Jae-in said Tuesday that he plans to increase the defense budget from 2.4 to 2.9 percent of the gross domestic product within his five-year term.

“While the government calls for dialogue with North Korea, it will be meaningless if we are not backed by overwhelming defense capabilities,” said Moon at a meeting at the Blue House with the incumbent and former defense ministers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) and chiefs of the Army, Navy and Air Force.

During his campaign, Moon had said that he plans to increase defense spending to 3 percent of the GDP.

“There are many pillars that sustain the nation, but of these, the most important are defense and the economy,” Moon said during the meeting. “The economy is a matter related to bettering livelihood, but defense is a matter of survival.”

The Ministry of National Defense has requested a defense budget of 43.7 trillion won for 2018, up from 40.3 trillion won this year. In comparison, the defense budget, which has consistently been on the rise, was 24.4 trillion won in 2007.

According to a Blue House official, “The defense budget increase is directly related to the transfer of wartime operational control” from the United States back to Korea, a process which has been delayed by several past administrations.

The official said this budget will focus on the deployment of the Kill Chain pre-emptive strike program, the Korean Air and Missile Defense (KAMD) and Korea Massive Punishment and Retaliation (KMPR), which are considered the three-axis defense systems needed to counter North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction.

Moon has pledged to create a strategic command that will consolidate and oversee this three-pronged defense system. The Kill Chain has the ability to pre-emptively strike North Korea’s missile sites, while KAMD intercepts incoming missiles at terminal stages and KMPR can target Pyongyang’s leadership and headquarters.

“The key to building up military strength, which is centered around the Army, is to modernize the military,” a Blue House official said. “There will be a focus on investing in modern weapons for the Air Force and troops for the Navy.”

This includes putting greater emphasis on Navy strength, which is Moon chose Song Young-moo, a former four-star naval commander, as the new defense minister.

The official noted the importance of this move, saying, “President Moon insisted on Song as defense minister despite various controversies related to the decision.”

BY KANG TAE-HWA, SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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