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S. Korea's defense spending rises amid N. Korea's nuclear threat
SEOUL, April 7 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's defense spending rose for the third consecutive year last year, data showed Sunday, amid escalating tensions with North Korea over its persistent nuclear and missile threats.

   South Korea spent 2.6 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) on defense last year, the highest level in three years, according to figures by the Ministry of National Defense.

   South Korea's defense expenditure totaled 32.9576 trillion won (US$29 billion), accounting for 2.59 percent of the GDP last year.

   The rate rose from 2.28 percent in 2003, the first year of former liberal President Roh Moo-hyun's term in office, to 2.51 percent in 2007. It increased to 2.6 percent in 2008, the first year of former conservative President Lee Myung-bak's term before peaking at 2.72 percent in 2009.

   After declining to 2.52 percent in 2010, the figure rose to 2.54 percent in 2011 and to 2.59 percent last year.

   The country's per capita defense spending was calculated at 650,000 won while the defense budget as a percentage of the total state budget was 14.8 percent in 2012.

   For the fiscal year 2013, the number declined to 14.5 percent, 1.5 percentage points lower than North Korea's 16 percent.

   After overtaking South Korea for the first time in 2005, the North's ratio of defense budget to the national budget remained higher than South Korea's for the ninth consecutive year this year.