Asia, Middle East drive arms sales to highest since Cold War

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A Swedish think tank says that the global arms trade has steadily increased in volume the past five years, propelled by an nearly doubling of arms imports in the Middle East and strong growth in demand in Asia.

Transfers of major arms - which include missiles, warplanes, submarines and air defence systems - were at their highest volume past year since 1990, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

More than half the world's arms exports came from the USA (33 percent) and Russian Federation (23 percent) alone.

Five countries - the United States, Russia, China, France and Germany - accounted for 74% of the total arms exports, according to a Swedish think tank.

China boosted its global sales percentages from 3.8 percent of the market from 2007 to 2011, to 6.2 percent of the world market from 2012 to 2016, the report states.

It said the flow of arms to Asia and Oceania and the Middle East increased in 2012-16, while there was a decrease in the flow to Europe, the Americas, and Africa. Riyadh bought weapons mostly from the United States and the United Kingdom, the report said. Arms imports by Qatar went up by 245 per cent. While India's share of global weapons imports has risen, China has increasingly been able to domestically produce weapons required by its military, SIPRI said, leading China's share of global defense imports to fall to 4.5 percent of the global total between 2012 and 2016 from 5.5 percent between 2007 and 2011.

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Russian Federation is the second in the list of the largest arms exporters.

Overall, the volume of worldwide transfers of major weapons has grown steadily since 2004, the institute said. Between 2007-11 and 2012-16, it increased its arms imports by 43%, and it now far outstrips the intake of regional rivals China and Pakistan.

The study showed the United States and France as the main weapons suppliers for the Middle East, and Russian Federation and China for Asia.

Vietnam made a particularly large jump.

"With no regional arms control instruments in place, states in Asia continue to expand their arsenals", he said Monday. "Over the past five years, most states in the Middle East have turned primarily to the US and Europe in their accelerated pursuit of advanced military capabilities", said Pieter Wezeman, Senior Researcher with the SIPRI Arms and Military Expenditure Programme.

Tensions have grown since 2014 as China has turned sandbars into islands, equipping them with airfields, ports and weapons systems and warned USA warships and aircraft to stay away from them. The US sold military equipment and weapons to 100 countries.

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