The overall number of major international arms sales declined during the last five years, but arms imports spiked sharply in nations throughout Asia and Oceania. Experts correlated the increases to a combination of tension regarding China’s growing military and the United States’ foreign policy.
Arms imports grew in Australia by 62 percent, in South Korea by 71 percent, and in Japan by 152 percent, reflecting ongoing tensions with the Chinese communist regime throughout both Asia and Oceania.
“Tensions between China and many states in Asia and Oceania are the main driver of arms imports in the region,” said Siemon Wezeman, a senior researcher at SIPRI, in an associated statement. “These tensions are also a major factor in US arms transfers to the region.”
American arms exports to the region are a critical component of the current U.S. strategy for maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific. Imports from the United States accounted for the largest arms transfers to Australia, Japan, and South Korea.
Australia purchased 50 combat 11 anti-submarine aircraft from the United States, whereas Japan and South Korea both purchased F-35 fighter jets and long-range air defense systems.
Asia and Oceania remained the largest importing region, according to the report, and received 43 percent of global arms transfers. Six states in the region were among the 10 largest arms importers in the world: Australia, China, India, Japan, Pakistan, and South Korea. Some 30 percent of all imports to the region came from the United States.
The report also comes at a time of increased tension between China and the United States.
The nations growing their arms imports are not limited to those in Asia and Oceania, however.
In fact, the largest growth in arms imports occurred in Europe, with the UK, Norway, and the Netherlands leading a new buildup of weapons in the West.
“The severe deterioration in relations between most European states and Russia was an important driver of growth in European arms imports, especially for states that cannot meet all their requirements through their national arms industries,” said Pieter Wezeman, a senior researcher for SIPRI.
All things considered, the United States, China, France, Germany, and Russia accounted for more than three-quarters of all arms exports globally. The largest exporter of arms was the United States. China was the fourth.