SEOUL --- South Korea will lease several military spy satellites from a foreign country next year and speed up the improvement of its combat power against North Korea's nuclear and missile threats, the Ministry of National Defense announced Friday.
It plans to pour 238.2 trillion won (US$210 billion) into a number of projects aimed at boosting the country's military firepower between 2018 and 2022 under the revised mid-term national defense blueprint.
The South, which has around 625,000 troops, is in the process of establishing a "three-axis system" to outgun the North's 1.1-million-strong military.
The three parts are the Kill Chain pre-emptive strike system, the Korean Air and Missile Defense (KAMD) and the Korea Massive Punishment and Retaliation (KMPR) strategy.
"(We) plan to improve surveillance and striking capability on the whole region of North Korea, expand the defense ability for core facilities and develop the capability for independent, massive retaliation," the ministry said.
The South's military plans to set up the three-tier system by the early 2020s, earlier than the initially planned mid-2020s, according to the strategy reported to the National Assembly.
The decision reflects the seriousness of the communist nation's development of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) and the urgency of resolving the problem.
The North, ruled by 33-year-old Kim Jong-un, has conducted two nuclear tests and launched around 30 ballistic missiles since last year.
In connection with the Kill Chain project aimed at carrying out a preemptive strike against Pyongyang's nuclear and missile facilities in case of an imminent threat, Seoul plans to acquire five military satellites by 2022 in the 1-trillion-won "425 Project."
Before that, it plans to lease satellites.
"We are in talks with three to four countries," a senior ministry official told reporters in a background briefing. "We hope to sign a contract with a certain nation by early next year if possible." He would not give more details.
The military will also push for the early operation of new striking means to destroy the North's key military facilities. It's developing a missile with the range of 800km in addition to the line of shorter-range ballistic missiles and the 1,000-km-range Hyunmoo-3 cruise missile.
For the KAMD project, it has decided to purchase additional PAC-3 Patriot missiles and upgrade M-SAM ground-to-air mid-range missiles, with more early warning radars to be bought.
The KMPR sector focuses on directly targeting the North's leadership and hitting back at the North if it should attack.
The South's military will upgrade UH-60 choppers for troop infiltration into Pyongyang and other equipment used by special forces.
In particular, unmanned submarines and insect-shaped robots will be developed for surveillance and reconnaissance operations.
The ministry said it plans to increase the ratio of spending on R&D projects to defense budgets to 8.3 percent in 2022 from 6.9 percent this year.