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Trump wants US$4b more for missile defence, citing North Korea

[WASHINGTON] President Donald Trump's administration asked Congress on Monday for US$4 billion more to support missile defence to counter the threat from North Korea, just ahead of his first visit to South Korea since taking office in January.

"This request supports additional efforts to detect, defeat, and defend against any North Korean use of ballistic missiles against the United States, its deployed forces, allies, or partners," Mr Trump wrote in a letter to Congress.

He made his request during his maiden trip to Asia as president, featuring repeated meetings with regional partners and others largely focused on how to address North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missiles programmes.

Mr Trump had originally asked for US$9.9 billion for the year ended Sept 30, 2018, for missile defence, which some lawmakers had dismissed as too low.

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Mr Trump also asked for US$700,000 to repair damage to Navy ships after recent fatal collisions, and US$1.2 billion for increased troop levels in Afghanistan and the administration's South Asia strategy in his supplemental budget request.

The budget request said the funds for South Asia would support the deployment of 3,500 more troops.

The Republican leaders of the Senate and House of Representatives Armed Services Committees, Senator John McCain and Representative Mac Thornberry, said in a joint statement that they welcomed Mr Trump's request and looked forward "to giving it the serious consideration it deserves."

Members of the two committees are currently working on a final version of the annual National Defence Authorisation Act, or NDAA, which sets out policy for the Pentagon.

Mr McCain and Mr Thornberry said the submission of the budget amendment before that work was completed means that NDAA conferees will be able to consider whether to incorporate the additional funding into the final agreement.

"This request also underscores the threat posed by the rogue North Korean regime and the urgent need to boost our missile defense capabilities to meet it," Mr McCain and Mr Thornberry said in a statement.

Mr Trump also repeated his request that Congress provide US$1.6 billion to build a wall on the US border with Mexico.

Mr Trump's plan to construct the wall was a centerpiece of his successful presidential campaign, but it has been questioned by some of his fellow Republicans, as well as most Democrats, in Congress.