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Parliament approves 3.6 pct increase for 2016 defense budget

All Headlines 14:26 December 03, 2015

SEOUL, Dec. 3 (Yonhap) -- The National Assembly approved Thursday a 3.6 percent increase in the defense budget for next year to boost the number of military conscripts and improve the quality of life at barracks, according to the Ministry of National Defense.

The increase put the country's defense budget for 2016 at 38.8 trillion won (US$33.2 billion).

It was, however, less than the 38.96 trillion-won budget the government proposed for 2016.

In the early hours of Thursday, the National Assembly approved a total 386.4 trillion-won budget for next year, up 2.9 percent from this year.

The expanded defense budget for 2016 is broken down to a 2.7 percent rise in spending on combat power maintenance to 27.16 trillion won and a 5.7 percent growth to 11.64 trillion won for defense procurement, according to the ministry.

The 2016 budget will fund the military's plan to increase the annual number of military conscripts and increase their welfare inside barracks.

The military will boost medical services and the quality of life for conscripts by introducing more medical resources like ambulances and mental health clinics, according to the ministry. Soldiers' salaries will also be hiked starting next year.

The military, however, sustained hefty budget cuts in many of its procurement projects aimed at defense against North Korea's missile and other threats.

The ministry had initially proposed a 64.3 billion-won budget for next year to launch its project to acquire five surveillance satellites by 2022.

The budget was reduced to 10 billion won in the government-wide budget planning before the National Assembly further cut it to 2 billion won earlier in the day.

The satellite project is intended to secure the local military's own capacity to monitor North Korea's missile sites and other key military facilities, for which it has been relying on the U.S. surveillance assets.

The military had also wanted 24.8 billion won for its project to purchase unmanned aerial vehicles to boost surveillance over North Korea's military activities, but the National Assembly approved only 11.6 billion won.

"These are core assets our military should acquire before retrieving the wartime operational control of South Korean troops in the mid-2020s (from the U.S.), but the budget cuts may inevitably deal blows to them," a ministry official said.

pbr@yna.co.kr
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