Sinking forces South Korean military push

SOUTH Korea's Defence Ministry has requested a sharp increase in its budget next year to improve its fighting capability amid tensions over the sinking of a warship blamed on North Korea.

The ministry yesterday said it asked for about $25.8 billion next year to introduce new weapons and improve military hardware.

The amount would be a 6.9 per cent increase from this year, which was a 3.6 per cent increase from the year before.

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An international investigation concluded last month that North Korea torpedoed the South Korean warship Cheonan near the tense Korean sea border in late March, killing 46 sailors. North Korea denied it launched an attack and warned that any punishment would trigger war.

The Cheonan's sinking was reflected in the ministry's request for a higher budget, an official said.

The official declined to elaborate on what kinds of new weapons the ministry is seeking with the proposed budget. Yonhap news agency, citing an unidentified military official, reported that the ministry wants to bolster its defence capability to cope with limited warfare with North Korea.

Earlier this week, North Korea threatened to take unspecified military action against South Korea and the United States, accusing the allies of deploying heavy weapons to the border truce village of Panmunjom. The US-led UN Command has dismissed the allegation.