U.S. plans military upgrade hereThe South Korean Ministry of National Defense and the United States Forces Korea said over the weekend that the United States will spend more than $11 billion over the next three years to enhance defense capability on the Korean Peninsula.
The announcement came after the commander of the U.S. forces in Korea, General Leon LaPorte, met with South Korean Defense Minister Cho Young-kil Thursday to discuss the capabilities of the joint U.S. and South Korean forces. General LaPorte told Korean officials that the United States wants to reinforce its capabilities, ministry officials said.
The announcement comes amid continuing consultations between the two countries to modernize the defense capabilities of the combined forces and to consolidate the U.S. forces’ alignment in Korea.
As part of the force enhancement, the United States will add the Patriot Advanced Capability-3, or PAC-3, to the existing Patriot surface-to-air guided missile air-defense system on the Korean Peninsula, Korean defense officials said. The new deployment will add to the battalion-scale Patriot system now deployed in Korea with 48 Patriot missiles.
The Defense Ministry said the plan also involves deployment of technology-enhanced and fast-deployable forces, the provision of war reserve stocks for allies and the addition of precision munitions to the Korean Peninsula. The war reserve program is to ensure a minimum inventory of combat-essential goods.
The U.S. military will include South Korea as part of the rotating deployment of a unit of the army’s new Stryker Brigade Combat Team beginning in the summer. One of the team’s first units, now in training at Fort Polk, Louisiana, is expected to be deployed here, a ministry official said.
The budget of $11 billion is equivalent to about 80 percent of the South Korean defense budget of about 17.4 trillion won for this year, the ministry said.
General LaPorte in a statement called the enhancement a “U.S. investment in peninsula security and regional stability.” The upgrades also demonstrate U.S. commitment to the long-standing South Korea-U.S. alliance, he added.
The near-term enhancements also include upgrades to the intelligence collection systems, the U.S. forces and South Korea’s defense ministry said.
Deputy U.S. Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, arriving in Korea yesterday for consultations with the defense and foreign ministries, reiterated that any realignment of U.S. forces in Korea will be to enhance defense capabilities on the Korean Peninsula.
by Lee Chul-hee
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