Sipri: never before has arms expenditure been so high in Asia

Not only Gaza and the war in Ukraine: the global arms race is also driven by Chinese pressure on Taiwan.. The 6.8% growth represents "the highest year-on-year growth since 2009". China, Russia, India and Saudi Arabia among the world's top five with the United States. Beijing's investments are affecting the other Asia-Pacific nations, especially Japan and Taiwan. Israel recorded an increase of 24%. 

Milan (AsiaNews) - In 2023, the greatest growth of the last decade was recorded in terms of global military spending, which reached its historic high for a total sum of 2.4 trillion dollars driven by Asia-Pacific tensions (Taiwan ) and the conflict between Israel and Hamas (as well as Iran).

ThIis is the data from the latest report published today by Sipri (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute), from which another interesting fact also emerges: the greatest increases at a geographical level concerned Asia, the Middle East and partly the 'Europe due to the war between Russia and Ukraine which has been dragging on for over two years.

“Total military spending is at an all-time high” senior researcher Sipri Nan Tian underlines to AFP, according to which “we have witnessed an increase in spending in all five geographical regions”.

In numerical terms, the increase in military spending is 6.8% and represents "the most significant on an annual basis since 2009" as the expert adds. "[This increase] is a reflection of the deterioration - he adds - of peace and security in the world", also because "there is no region in which the situation has improved".

At country level, among the top five for military spending in the annual Sipri report are: United States, China, Russia, India and Saudi Arabia.

In Asia, the most evident fact is the driving role played by China whose substantial increase in military spending has also fueled the arms race in its neighbors, in particular Taiwan (which fears an attack from Beijing) and Japan which has archived decades of pacifism.

Beijing, second in the world in terms of money spent behind the United States, allocated about 6 billion for the military in 2023, an increase of 6% compared to 2022. This is the twenty-ninth consecutive increase in Chinese military spending on an annual basis , for a nation that represents half of the total military spending in the Asia and Oceania region,

“China is directing much of its growing military budget to increase the combat readiness of the People's Liberation Army,” explains Sipri researcher Xiao Liang. “This has pushed countries such as Japan and Taiwan - he continues - to significantly strengthen their military capabilities, a trend that will further accelerate in the coming years”.

In particular, Tokyo has allocated 50.2 billion dollars for the army in 2023, 11% more than in 2022. Similar growth also for Taiwan with a figure of 11% in 2023, reaching 16.6 billion of dollars. The fourth largest spending country in the world, India, recorded an increase of 4.3%, reaching 83.6 billion dollars.

In addition to the tensions in the Taiwan Strait, a "rebel" island that Beijing considers part of the territory and is ready to annex the cost of a military operation in which the United States is (more than) an interested spectator, wars are driving military spending in the Middle East: from the conflict in Gaza unleashed by Israel against Hamas, in response to the terrorist attack of 7 October, to the more recent confrontations between the Jewish State and Iran involving ballistic missiles and military drones.

Hence the estimated increase for the region of 9% in 2023, for a total investment of 200 billion dollars, also in this case the highest in the last decade.

Driving the arms race is Saudi Arabia, among the few nations not involved - at least officially - in a war or military clash and, on the contrary, among the most interested in a easing of tension between Israel and the Islamic Republic. Riyadh's spending increased by 4.3% in 2023, reaching .8 billion or 7.1% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Israel is second in the region after Saudi Arabia, grew by 24%, reaching 27.5 billion dollars, largely determined by the offensive in Gaza. “The sharp increase in military spending in the Middle East in 2023 reflects the rapidly evolving situation in the region: from the improvement of diplomatic relations between Israel and several Arab countries in recent years, to the outbreak of a large-scale war in Gaza and fears of a conflict at a regional level” explains Diego Lopes da Silva, Sipri regional expert.

Last year, Iran was the fourth country for military spending in the area, with 10.3 billion dollars and an increase in the share reserved for the Pasdaran which went from 27% in 2019 to 37% in 2023,