East Asia joins global military spending surge over China concerns: report

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Global military expenditure recorded its steepest rise in 15 years amid ongoing wars in Europe and the Middle East, while East Asia saw the largest defence spending in a decade – coinciding with tensions over Taiwan, according to a Swedish think tank.
In a report released on Monday, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri) said military expenditure in East Asia grew by 6.2 per cent in 2023 to reach US$411 billion, the sharpest increase in 10 years.
“Many of its neighbours perceive China’s growing military power as a reason to enhance their own military capabilities,” the institute said in its “Trends in World Military Expenditure, 2023” report.
Beijing allocated an estimated US$296 billion to the military in 2023, remaining the world’s second-biggest military spender after the United States, which spent US$916 billion.
The funding amounted to a 6 per cent rise in the People’s Liberation Army’s budget, the 29th consecutive year-on-year increase for the PLA.
Sipri’s estimate for China was higher than 1.55 trillion yuan (US$224 billion) the Ministry of Finance said went to the military but the Swedish institute said it included estimates of spending in other categories that Beijing did not classify as military use.
Among those line items was funding for the coastguard and military research and development, which Sipri said accounted for about 8 per cent of the total military budget. Official figures for these categories are not publicly available.
China’s total amounted to 12 per cent of global spending and half of the expenditure in Asia and Oceania, the institute said.
Japan allocated US$50.2 billion to its military in 2023, 11 per cent more than in 2022 – the largest year-on-year increase since 1972.
The budget for 2023 also marked the first year of Japan’s biggest military build-up since the end of World War II, with plans to spend US$310 billion on the armed forces in 2023–27. It is aiming to bolster its counterstrike capacity by investing in aircraft, ships, and long-range missiles.
Taiwan’s military expenditure grew by 11 per cent in 2023 to US$16.6 billion, the steepest increase in the past five years, as the island responded to “the perceived growing threat from Beijing”.
Taiwan created an extrabudgetary fund in 2020 and another in 2022 earmarked for F-16 combat aircraft and naval systems, accounting for 21 per cent of Taiwan’s total military spending in 2023.
Elsewhere in the region, South Korea’s military budget grew by 1.1 per cent to US$47.9 billion while Australia had a 1.5 per cent fall to US$32.3 billion.
The increases mirrored the global rise in military expenditure.
With wars raging in Gaza and Ukraine, total world military spending rose for the ninth consecutive year to an all-time high of US$2.443 trillion, up 6.8 per cent from 2022 and the steepest year-on-year increase since 2009.
The report said 2023 also marked the first year since 2009 when all geographic regions ramped up military spending.
“The unprecedented rise in military spending is a direct response to the global deterioration in peace and security,” said Nan Tian, senior researcher with Sipri’s military expenditure and arms production programme.
“States are prioritising military strength but they risk an action-reaction spiral in the increasingly volatile geopolitical and security landscape.”

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