Gov't cuts budget for missile program for 2014

SEOUL, Oct. 6 (Yonhap) -- South Korea has curtailed its budget for beefing up the country's missile program against North Korea's nuclear and missile weapons for fiscal year 2014, a budget proposal showed Sunday.

According to the budget plan submitted by the finance ministry to the National Assembly, the government has set aside some 1.19 trillion won (US$1.11 billion) to be used for building an independent, low-tier missile shield called the Korea Air and Missile Defense (KAMD), and establishing a pre-emptive missile destruction system, the so-called "Kill Chain" for next year.

The proposal is smaller than the defense ministry's request of 1.23 trillion won.

Seoul has been gradually building the KAMD since 2006 by acquiring Patriot missiles and long-range early warning radars. The KAMD involves an early warning radar as well as ship-to-air and land-based missile defense systems, arming Seoul with the ability to track and shoot down the North's low-flying, short- and medium-range missiles, with the help of U.S. early warning satellites.

South Korea has also been speeding up to establish the Kill Chain to detect and strike North Korea's missile and nuclear facilities. The Kill Chain is designed to detect signs of impending missiles or nuclear attacks from the communist country and launch pre-emptive strikes to eliminate the threat by using its advanced cruise and ballistic missiles to support its present missile defense system.

The budget cut contradicts the government's earlier plan to build the two systems before 2020 amid persistent nuclear and missile threats from North Korea.

During an Armed Forces Day ceremony on Tuesday, President Park Geun-hye pledged to build strong defense capabilities to deter threats from North Korea and render its nuclear weapons ineffective.

"While maintaining a strong (South) Korea-U.S. joint defense system, the government will secure anti-weapons of mass destruction capabilities, such as the Kill Chain and the KAMD, at an early date to make North Korea realize on its own that its nuclear weapons and missiles ... are useless," Park said.

The budget plan needs parliamentary approval before being implemented by the government in fiscal year 2014, which begins on Jan. 1.

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