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Parliament advises review of Taurus, Global Hawk acquisition plan

The National Assembly has advised the government to re-examine its plan to buy European long-range air-to-ground missiles and high-altitude surveillance aircraft from the United States, citing too high price tags, a parliamentary report showed Friday.

The defense acquisition plan to buy Taurus missiles and Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicles should be "reviewed again in a (future) parliamentary budget deliberation process ... as the plan is likely to stir up controversies over the expenses," the budget analysis report by the National Assembly's Budget Office said.

The procurement agency Defense Acquisition Program Administration has been pushing to import about 170 Taurus missiles made by the German-Swedish joint venture Taurus System after the U.S. refused to export its JASSM missiles for strategic reasons.

The Taurus cruise missiles have a range of 500 kilometers and could reach as far as North Korea's capital city of Pyongyang even when shot from the central part of South Korea.

The parliamentary report said the country first set aside 221.3 billion won (US$194.14 million) for the missile acquisition plan and increased it to 411.9 billion won. But the Taurus manufacturer proposed a price tag of 568.8 billion won in 2011, and the price is likely to go up further given that the South Korean government is leading the deal through a private contract, not a competitive auction, the report said.

The Budget Office report advised the procurement agency to keep the limited budget in mind when it leads future price negotiations with the missile maker, and report the results of the negotiation before the office conducts a budget deliberation for 2014.

The Budget Office report also said the government will have to reconsider its plan to purchase made-in-America Global Hawk missiles, a high-altitude unmanned aerial surveillance aircraft.

The parliament earmarked a total of 485.4 billion won for the plan to introduce the surveillance vehicles by 2017, but the price tag the U.S. proposed in April amounts to 880 billion won, it said.

As it is difficult to proceed with the plan, the procurement agency is advised to review the plan again with help from the state-run Agency for Defense Development, which is now leading a project to develop a medium-altitude unmanned aerial vehicle, the report said. (Yonhap News)