China leads a surge in Asian military spending, US report says

Report says region will spend more than Europe does this year - but US still dwarfs all comers

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 17 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 17 October, 2012, 4:52am


Military spending by Asia's major powers increased dramatically over the past decade, according to a study, with China leading the way as its defence budget quadrupled since 2000.

Defence spending in China and four other Asian countries doubled over 10 years, and will surpass Europe's military expenditures this year, the Washington-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies reported on Monday.

Asia's arms race still left it trailing US defence spending, but it would ensure the United States would likely stick to its plan to shift the country's strategic focus towards the Asia-Pacific region, it said.

Defence spending in China, India, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan reached a total of US$224 billion last year, which "equates to almost twice the amount spent by these five countries in 2000", the study said.

"With Asian defence spending projected to overtake that of Europe by the end of 2012, the United States' posture rebalancing towards the Asia-Pacific region is likely to continue," it said.

In 2005, China's military budget outstripped Japan's as the largest in Asia and recorded a 13.4 per cent annual rise.

Among all countries, China now ranks second behind the US in total military spending, though the Pentagon budget still dwarfs Beijing's defence spending at more than US$600 billion per year.

Analysts say that China's emergence as a global economic giant has driven the spike in military spending, as Beijing seeks to assert its influence beyond its borders to safeguard its access to sea lanes and resources.

Last year, Beijing spent US$25.8 billion on new weapons and related research and development, up from US$7.3 billion in 2000, the report said.

China's total defence budget grew from US$22.5 billion to US$89.9 billion between 2000 and 2011, said the report, citing official figures from Beijing.

But the study acknowledged that independent estimates put Chinese spending at a much higher level, with the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute estimating last year's defence budget at US$142.2 billion.

India's defence spending grew 47.6 per cent over the decade, reaching US$37 billion in 2011. Japan's military budget rose from US$40 billion to US$58.2 billion.

South Korea's defence investments swelled from US$17 billion to US$29 billion, while Taiwan's defence budget expanded at a slower pace, from US$8 billion in 2000 to US$10 billion in 2011.

Apart from Japan, which spent US$238,000 per soldier last year, the four other countries devoted up to US$44,000 to training, paying and equipping each of their soldiers, the study said.