SEOUL:According to reports by local media, South Korea plans to sharply increase spending on defence next year, as regional tensions mount following a North Korean artillery attack and differences between China and the United States.
The Korea Economic Daily said the government had proposed a 5.8 per cent increase in the 2011 defence budget to about $27 billion to buy more self-propelled artillery and fighter-bombers, far more than the 3.6 per cent rise this year.It said parliament could approve an even higher amount, given this week’s shelling by North Korean forces of a Southern island near the disputed maritime boundary.
Regional giant China, reclusive North Korea’s only major ally, has said it is determined to prevent an escalation of the violence but warned against military acts near its coast as US and South Korean forces prepared for exercises in the Yellow Sea.
North Korea, stepping up its rhetoric, said the four-day naval drills starting on Sunday risked pushing the region towards war.The US military said the exercises, planned long before Tuesday’s attack, were designed to deter North Korea and were not aimed at China.
The United States is sending an aircraft carrier group led by the nuclear-powered USS George Washington for the manoeuvres with South Korea.
Captain Darryn James, a Pentagon spokesman said that,“We’ve routinely operated in waters off the Korean peninsula for years,These latest provocations have been by the North and they need to take ownership of those, not us.”