Amid rising threats to national security, South Korea has increased its 2017 defence budget to equip its forces with more powerful missile defence equipment. The move comes a day after North Korea fired three ballistic missiles into the East Sea.
A defence ministry official said the government wants "to counter the North's asymmetrical threats coming from its weapons of mass destruction", the Yonhap news agency reported.
Despite warnings from the South and the US, Pyongyang has continued to test fire its nuclear warheads under the leadership of Kim Jong-un. The missile launches that have become frequent in the past few months prompted Seoul and Washington to take defensive measures. The two nations decided to deploy an anti-missile system, the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (Thaad) system, in the Korean peninsula.
Now the South Korean government is planning to build a "Korea Air and Missile Defence (KAMD) system" and a "kill chain" to detect, identify and intercept incoming missiles in the shortest possible time, the ministry official told the news agency.
The government has allocated 40.335tn South Korean won (£27.4bn, $36.5bn) for its 2017 defence budget, which is up 4% from 38.799tn won allocated for 2016, the Ministry of National Defence said in a statement. As much as 12.159tn won of the total allocated budget will be spent to improve the country's existing aircraft and anti-missile capabilities, while the remaining 28.176tn won will be used towards operating costs for troops and armaments.
Yonhap reported that the missiles, which were fired on Monday (5 September) without any intimation or warning, were found to be upgraded mid-range Rodong missiles. They reportedly flew about 1,000 km and landed in water some 400 km inside Japan's air defence identification zone in the East Sea.
Yonhap also reported, citing a statement from the South Korean foreign ministry, that Kim Hong-kyun, the ministry's special representative for Korean Peninsula Peace and Security Affairs, and his US counterpart Sung Kim have agreed to meet on 13 September in Seoul to discuss "detailed countermeasures" against North Korea's latest ballistic missile launch.
The two countries have also agreed to continue their collaboration against repeated military provocation from the North. "Both sides will work closely together in order to keep sending out warnings against North Korea at various bilateral and multilateral levels," the foreign ministry statement added.