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China overtakes Japan as Asia’s biggest military spender: SIPRI

China overtook Japan as Asia’s biggest arms spender in 2006 as global military expenditures grew 3.5 percent to US$1.2 trillion, a Swedish research institute said Monday.

The United States remained by far the world’s top military spender last year, devoting about US$529 billion on weapons, up from US$505 billion in 2005, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute said.

“The large increase in the USA’s military spending is to a great extent due to the costly military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq,” SIPRI said in its annual report.

Britain and France were second and third, respectively, while China’s growing military expenditures reached nearly US$50 billion, making it the fourth biggest arms spender in the world, SIPRI said in its annual report. Japan was fifth with US$43.7 billion.

The figures cited were in 2005 dollars.

“It is worth asking how cost-effective military expenditure is as a way of increasing the security of human lives,” SIPRI researcher Elisabeth Skons said.

She said “millions of lives could be saved through basic health interventions that would cost a fraction of what the world spends on military forces every year.”

International arms transfers have grown continuously since 2002, with China and India being the biggest importers and the U.S. and Russia the two major exporters, the Stockholm-based institute said.

Russia, which spent US$34.7 billion on arms, “has used its energy wealth to revive national pride, to restore its influence” in surrounding countries “and to maximize its geopolitical power,” SIPRI said.

The group, which is largely funded by the Swedish government, is a world leader in tracking the arms trade and analyzing military spending.

Five Middle Eastern countries were among the top 10 importers of weapons.

“While much media attention was given to arms deliveries to Iran, mainly from Russia, deliveries from the USA and European countries to Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were significantly larger,” the report said.

The institute said the United States, Russia, France, Britain and China together held more than 26,000 nuclear warheads at the start of 2007.

“Although the total number of warheads is gradually being cut, all five countries are undertaking or planning major programs to update their nuclear weapon arsenals,” SIPRI said.

The report said that the U.S. government provided a total of US$432 billion in supplemental appropriations for the war on terrorism between September 2001 and June 2006.

“This massive increase in U.S. military spending has been one of the factors contributing to the deterioration of the U.S. economy since 2001,” SIPRI said.

World’s top 10 military spenders:

The list shows the amount each country spent on weapons in 2005 dollars, and the share of world arms expenditures.

1. U.S., US$528.7 billion, 46 percent

2. Britain, US$59.2 billion, 5 percent

3. France, US$53.1 billion, 5 percent

4. China, US$49.5 billion, 4 percent

5. Japan, US$43.7 billion, 4 percent

6. Germany, US$37.0 billion, 3 percent

7. Russia, US$34.7 billion, 3 percent

8. Italy, US$29.9 billion, 3 percent

9. Saudi Arabia, US$29.0 billion, 3 percent

10. India, US$23.9 billion, 2 percent

Source: SIPRI via AP

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