SIPRI: Chinese threat pushes up arms imports in Asia-Pacific
About 42 per cent of world-wide weapons sales are made in the Asia-Oceania region. Russian and Chinese exports decline, those of the US, France and Germany increase. Imports boom in the Middle East. It is hard to know if growth will resume after the pandemic.
Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – The Asia-Pacific is the region that imports the most weapons, a record due in large part to countries fearful of China's military growth, this according to the latest data by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
For the first time since 2001–2005, arms sales between countries did not increase between 2011–15 and 2016–20.
Asia/Oceania was the largest importing region for major arms, with 42 per cent of global arms transfers in 2016–20.
India, Australia, China, South Korea and Pakistan were the biggest importers in the region. Except for Pakistan, all the other countries have disputes with China.
China is the largest arms importer in East Asia, but the largest growth in recent years has been by South Korea (+210 per cent), which faces the North Korean threat.
Japan has also increased imports (+124 per cent), driven by Chinese pressure over Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.
Unlike the United States, France and Germany, exports from China and Russia fell during the period under review.
Russia remains the world's second-largest arms exporter, after the United States. However, between 2015 and 2020, Russia's share of global arms sales fell from 22 per cent to 20 per cent. The decline is due to the collapse of sales to India (-53 per cent), Moscow’s historic customer.
Russia's losses in India were not offset by sales increases in China, Algeria and Egypt.
China is 5th place in SIPRI’s ranking with a 7.8 per cent drop in arms sales. Chinese arms exports accounted for 5.2 per cent of total arms exports in 2016–20. Pakistan, Bangladesh and Algeria were its main buyers.
The biggest growth in arms imports was seen in the Middle East (+25 per cent), led by Saudi Arabia (+61 per cent), which is the world's largest arms buyer, and Qatar (+361 per cent). About 47 per cent of US exports go to the region.
SIPRI has no precise information on whether sales growth will pick up in the coming years.
The negative effects of Covid-19 could push some countries to reduce military spending.
Last year, however, at the peak of the pandemic, several governments did not hesitate from signing important military contracts.