Asia's military spending is set to overtake Europe's for the first time in modern world history, a think tank has reported. Whether the development marks a shift in global power, the authors say, remains to be seen.
Spending on defense by Asian nations is set to nudge ahead that of Europe, a report by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) said on Wednesday.
"While per capita spending levels in Asia remain significantly lower than those in Europe, on the current trend Asian defense spending is likely to exceed that of Europe, in nominal terms, during 2012," IISS Director-General John Chipman told a news conference to launch the organization's annual publication, "The Military Balance."
While national budgets in Europe have been squeezed because of the sovereign debt crisis and sluggish economic growth, increased security concerns have driven up spending in Asia, Chipman explained.
"Since the financial crisis in 2008, there has been a convergence in European and Asian defense spending levels," he said.
China, along with other Asian nations, was becoming "increasingly militarized, as a result of rapid economic growth and strategic uncertainty," the IISS said.
Asian defense spending in 2011 increased in real terms by 3.15 percent, with China, Japan, India and South Korea accounting for the bulk of spending. Together with Australia - classified as part of Asia by the report - those powers accounted for more than 80 percent of the continent's total defense budget.
West seeks fresh strategies
While the report said the development might reflect a "global redistribution of military power," it added that this was not necessarily the case.
It said the US and other western nations would try to keep a "qualitative and quantitative edge" over Asian states, such as China, by investing in areas such as research and development.
"They will focus on maximizing value from partnership and cooperation agreements," the document concluded.
A statement issued by China's National People's Congress on Sunday said Beijing planned to boost spending by 11.2 percent this year, to some 670.2 billion yuan (80.6 billion euros; $106.4 billion) in 2012.
rc/ncy (AFP, dpa, Reuters)