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South Korea to invest USD21 billion on ‘three-axis' system

The chart shows South Korea's total military expenditure of which the core defence budget is part. Janes Defence Budgets forecasts that the country's total expenditure will grow to more than USD60 billion by the end of this decade. (Janes Defence Budgets)

South Korea has outlined plans to set aside about KRW30 trillion (USD21 billion) on enhancing its ‘three-axis' defence system over the next five years. The spending plan is a response to increasing North Korean missile and nuclear threats.

The three-axis defence programme – recently reinstated at the heart of the country's defence doctrine – intends to bolster the strike, air defence, and retaliation capabilities of the Republic of Korea (RoK) Armed Forces.

Speaking at a parliamentary audit session on 21 October, Shin Won-sik, who sits on the National Assembly's National Defense Committee, said KRW30.5 trillion will be allocated to 93 defence development and procurement projects aligned with the three-axis programme from 2023 to 2027.

This includes:

Shin did not identify specific projects under each element of the three-axis system. However, all three areas of capability incorporate wide-ranging developmental and acquisition projects related to, for example, missile interceptors, air combat systems, radars, surveillance systems, layered air-defence systems, and a wide variety of missiles including short-, medium-, and long-range strike systems.The three-axis system was envisaged in 2017 but became a point of contention between South Korea and the north, prompting former South KoreanPresident Moon Jae-in, who was in office from 2017 to 2022, to discontinue using the term as part of an effort to ease tensions with its northern neighbour.

Under Moon, the South Korean Ministry of National Defense (MND) referenced a term roughly translated as a ‘system to respond to nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction'.

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