HELSINKI — The five biggest arms import countries are now all in Asia, which has become the biggest regional importer of defense equipment and systems, according to a new report from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
The report reveals that the volume of worldwide arms transfers was 24 percent higher in the period 2007 to 2011 than in 2002 to 2006, with Asia and the Oceania states (Australia and region) accounting for 44 percent of all global arms imports. Next was Europe at 19 percent, the Middle East at 17 percent, the United States, Canada and South America with 11 percent and Africa at 9 percent.
India was the world’s biggest importer of arms, accounting for 10 percent of the global total. The next four biggest arms importers in Asia in 2007 to 2011 were South Korea, which accounted for 6 percent of arms transfers, followed by Pakistan (5 percent), China (5 percent) and Singapore (4 percent).
Greece was the biggest arms importer in Europe in 2007 to 11, SIPRI reported.
“The major Asian importing countries are seeking to develop their own arms industries and decrease their reliance on external sources of supply. A large share of arms deliveries is due to licensed production,” said Pieter Wezeman, a senior researcher with the SIPRI Arms Transfers Program.
Following this trend, China has reduced its arms imports and is now more reliant on home-grown production. China, which was the biggest importer of arms in 2002 to 2006, was ranked in fourth position in 2007 to 2011.
“The decline in the volume of Chinese imports coincides with the improvements in China’s arms industry and rising arms exports,” the SIPRI report states. Since 2002, the volume of Chinese arms exports has increased by 95 percent. China now ranks as the sixth largest global supplier of arms, narrowly trailing Britain.
However, the SIPRI report highlights the growing importance of the Pakistan market, noting that China has not yet achieved a major breakthrough in any other significant market.
The report also highlights Russia’s growing arms trade with Middle East countries, estimating that Russia supplied 78 percent of Syria’s arms imports in 2007 to 2011. Exports to Syria have included Buk-M2E SAM systems, Bastion-P coastal defense missile systems, and an order for new Yak-130 trainer/combat aircraft.
The U.S. has also been winning major deals in the Middle East, the report said, highlighting Saudi Arabia’s placement of an order for 154 F-15SA combat aircraft in 2011.
“This was not only the most significant order placed by any state in 2011 but also the largest arms deal for at least two decades,” noted the report.
In South America, Venezuela’s arms imports increased by 555 percent in the period 2006 to 2011, elevating the country from 46th biggest arms importer to 15th position.
In Scandinavia, Sweden’s weapons exports rose by 31 percent in the 2007 to 2011 period, increasing at a higher rate that the global average. Despite the rise in Sweden’s arms exports, the country slipped from a 10th to an 11th ranking of major weapons exporters in 2007 to 2011. Overall, Sweden accounts for 2 percent of global arms exports.