SEOUL, Nov. 2 (UPI) -- The government in South Korea has unveiled ambitious designs intended to make it the seventh largest defense equipment exporting country in the world with annual sales worth $4 billion a year by 2020.
South Korea's designs come as China disclosed that it was closely chasing its military rival, the United States, with its 2018 defense budget projection estimated at more than 55 percent of that slated by the U.S. Pentagon.
A meeting of defense and industry related ministries laid out the blueprint plan with the supervision of South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, local media reported. The plan, they said, is expected to boost employment in the defense sector while promoting advancements in defense.
Among the goals laid out was that of the tiny country joining the ranks of the top defense industry exporters within a decade. As many as 50,000 jobs are expected to be created as South Korea hopes to rally $4 billion in defense export sales.
Just two years ago, the country's export sale totaled about $250 million, accounting for less than 1 percent of the world's defense market.
To achieve its goal the country's leading defense council said it would carry out "overall reform on defense research and technology system that Agency for Defense Development monopolizes," Defense Talk reported.
"Except for major, strategic and secret weapons, private firms will be responsible for general weapons development and their efficiency improvement," it said.
It is understood that as of next year, a number of undisclosed firms will handle general weapons development and their improvement. The firms will then take full command of such projects by 2015.
The country's agency for defense development will instead "focus on developing strategic and secret weapons and technology for the future," Defense Talk reported.
China's defense budget stands at about $160 billion, about one-third of what the United States spending in the industry. It hopes to increase spending to nearly $200 billion by 2018.
During that same period, the U.S. defense budget is expected to climb by 3 percent reaching about $550 billion in 2018. Defense experts anticipate industry spending in Europe will rise at an even slower pace.
Should South Korea's plan proceed, the country "will be able to consider creating a system of improving efficiency of arms in various positions, such as strategically and technically," an anonymous defense official told Defense Talk.