Asia powers double defense spending

WASHINGTON — Asia’s top powers have doubled defense spending in the past decade, spurred by the explosion in military expenditure by China, new research shows.

While troop numbers have remained constant, overall annual spending has grown to $224 billion in 2011, according to a report released Monday by the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies. Spending particularly accelerated in the second half of the decade.

The research covers China, Japan, India, South Korea and Taiwan, which account for some 87 percent of Asia’s defense spending.

China’s share of the total spending has risen from about 20 percent in 2000 to 40 percent in 2011. The report’s authors noted that the official figures they cite likely underestimate how much China actually spends, perhaps by a margin of around 60 percent.

Only the United States spends more on defense: about $670 billion this year, more than double the amount spent in 2001.

China’s lightning economic rise and elevation as a military power has unnerved its neighbors and drawn more attention from the United States, long the pre-eminent force in the Asia-Pacific. China eclipsed U.S. ally Japan as the top defense spender in the region in 2005. China’s official defense spending in 2011 was $89.9 billion, followed by Japan with $58.2 billion, and India with $37 billion.

“There’s no question that the rise of China is in part responsible for the growth in defense spending” in the region, said David Berteau, director of the center’s international security program. He added that countries were also looking at the increased capabilities of their other neighbors.

But Berteau said it wasn’t comparable to the kind of arms race seen during the Cold War.

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Article courtesy of Marine Corps Times.

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