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Defense spending up 1.8% over past decade

The China Post--Taiwan's defense spending has grown a mere 1.8-percent over the past decade, the lowest increase among five Asian countries analyzed in a recent study released by a U.S.-based thinktank Monday.

The Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) report also shows that Taiwan's budget for defense personnel maintenance was high, accounting for nearly 50 percent of spending.

The CSIS paper analyzes the the five largest defense budgets in Asia: China, India, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan between 2000 to 2011.

Over the past decade, the five Asian powers have increased military spending to levels among the highest in the world, with China leading the way, the CSIS report said.

Beijing has quadrupled its defense budget since 2000, it said, adding that India, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan have all increased their military spending significantly over the period.

That trend contrasts with the United States and European Union, whose defense budgets have been declining in recent years.

China's share of total spending has risen from about 20 percent in 2000 to 40 percent in 2011. Only the U.S. spends more on defense: about US$670 billion this year, more than double the amount spent in 2001.

The CSIS study shows that of all countries analyzed in this report, Taiwan has the smallest defense budget, which grew from $8.3 billion in 2000 to US$10.1 billion in 2011. Overall, Taiwan's total defense spending has seen a 1.8-percent growth.

The growth percentage is significantly lower than that of China (13.4 percent), India (3.6 percent), Japan (3.5 percent) and the South Korea (4.8 percent.)

Per-soldier spending increased in a similar fashion, growing in absolute terms from US$22,500 in 2000 to US$34,800 in 2011.

The decrease in Taiwan's force structure from roughly 370,000 to 290,000 caused this difference between total and per-soldier spending trends, the CSIS said.

The growth in total defense spending from 2007 onward was largely the result of increased expenditure on military personnel, which remains the largest category, accounting for at least a 50-percent share of total spending up to 2006.

In the subsequent years, personnel spending ranged from a low of 37.9 percent (2008) to a high of 47.5 percent (2011).

Per-soldier spending grew at a faster pace, largely a result of significant troop reductions, it said.

Asked to comment on the report, military spokesman Luo Shou-he yesterday said the increase on personnel spending is inevitable for Taiwan's military as the nation is pushing for a transformation from compulsory to a full voluntary conscript system.

Taiwan has no intention to engage in an arms race with China, but will focus instead on making optimal use of its defense budget to build the nation's military into a small but well-trained force that is capable of defending itself, he added.

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