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South Korean military wants
sharp budget increase
Wednesday, June 30, 2010; 6:57 AM
SEOUL, South Korea -- South Korea's Defense Ministry requested a sharp increase Wednesday in its budget for next year to improve its fighting capability amid tensions over the sinking of a warship blamed on North Korea.
The ministry said it asked for about 31.6 trillion won ($25.8 billion) next year to introduce new weapons and improve military hardware and welfare for troops.
The amount would be a 6.9 percent increase from the 29.5 trillion won budgeted this year, which was a 3.6 percent increase from the year before, a ministry official said on condition of anonymity, citing policy.
An international investigation concluded last month that North Korea torpedoed the South Korean warship Cheonan near the tense Korean sea border in late March, killing 46 sailors. North Korea denied it launched an attack and warned that any punishment would trigger war.
The Cheonan's sinking was reflected in the ministry's request for a higher budget, the official said.
The official declined to elaborate on what kinds of new weapons the ministry is seeking with the proposed budget. Yonhap news agency, citing an unidentified military official, reported that the ministry wants to bolster its defense capability to cope with limited warfare with North Korea.
The Ministry of Strategy and Finance said it plans to review the budget request and consult with other ministries before submitting a total proposed government budget for next year to the Cabinet and National Assembly for final approval.
Earlier this week, North Korea threatened to take unspecified military action against South Korea and the United States, accusing the allies of deploying heavy weapons to the border truce village of Panmunjom. The U.S.-led U.N. Command on Tuesday dismissed the allegation.
North Korea also said Monday it must bolster its nuclear capability, citing hostile U.S. policies and military threats, although the U.S. has repeatedly said it has no intention of attacking.
The two Koreas are still technically at war because no peace treaty was signed at the end of the 1950-53 Korean War. The U.S. stations about 28,500 troops in South Korea as a deterrent against the North.