SEOUL — South Korea will spend $92 billion over the next three years to build a military capable of independent self-defense and to compensate for the 12,500 U.S. troops scheduled to depart during the same period, officials said.

The South Korean Ministry of National Defense made the announcement Thursday, saying the plan would increase the defense budget by 11 percent each year through 2008.

“We’re pushing for President Roh’s ‘cooperative self-defense’ system, under which we transform the South Korea-U.S. alliance to one in which our role is strengthened,” Maj. Gen. Bang Hyo-bok, an MND planning officer, told South Korea media at a Thursday briefing.

“In terms of the war-deterrence effect, we’ll be laying the groundwork for South Korea to take the initiative in defending the Korean peninsula.”

In return, U.S. officials have pledged $11 billion toward weapons systems by 2005 to supplement remaining troops on the ground.

The bulk of South Korea’s increase will go toward purchasing and developing new, high-tech weapons systems, Bang said, to include early-warning systems, Patriot missile batteries, Aegis destroyers and new satellites.

South Korea made the “cooperative self defense” policy a priority after U.S. officials announced their intention to remove 12,500 troops from the Korean peninsula. Originally, the United States wanted the reduction completed by the end of 2005, but in an agreement reached last month, the process will be phased in over the next three years.

The first portion of the reduction will be the 3,600 2nd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division soldiers dispatched from South Korea to Iraq in August. Instead of returning to South Korea, they will head to Fort Carson, Colo.

Another 1,400 troops, which the U.S. military has declined to publicly identify, also will depart by the end of this year.

The South Korean military currently has around 700,000 members. The North Korean military has been estimated to number over 1 million, with around 70 percent of those permanently stationed south of Pyongyang.

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