For first time in centuries, Asia’s military spending overtakes Europe

Chinese special operations force

From Peter Apps, Reuters:  Asian military spending will top that of Europe in 2012 for the first time in centuries, a global defence survey said on Wednesday, pointing to high regional economic growth and an increasingly ambitious China.

The London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies said U.S. military spending was also falling with withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan – although Washington’s $739 billion budget still dwarfs that of other nations.

With the Pentagon explicitly refocusing its strategic attention on Asia, the annual Military Balance report said it was clear that a major historical shift was underway.

With China’s military spending – an estimated $89 billion in 2011 – roughly doubling every five years, other growing Asian states were also funnelling money into their military programmes, the report said. That brought conflict risks.

"There’s no doubt we are seeing a major shift," John Chipman, IISS director-general John Chipman told Reuters on the sidelines of the report’s launch.

"What we see in Asia is just about every kind of strategic challenge – from 19th century style territorial disputes to economic rivalry and potential new nuclear weapons states … We need to manage that."

Diplomatic effort and confidence-building measures were necessary to stop disputes between a variety of Asian powers in the South China Sea and elsewhere – together with other regional and economic rivalries – from escalating, he said.

The United States has said it will move additional military resources to Asia, including marines to Australia and combat vessels to Singapore.

Beijing has condemned such plans, accusing Washington of being unnecessarily belligerent. Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Singapore, Thailand, India and other nations in the region are also increasing their forces, particularly naval craft.

From Joshua Keating, Passport: Europe has only a fourth of the population of Asia, no individual economies that rival the size of China or Japan, and, with the exception of the Balkans, no major military conflicts since the end of World War II. Asia meanwhile has seen massive military buildups on the Korean peninsula, the India-Pakistan border, and, of course, China’s military modernization. 

The demilitarization of the European continent is actually even a bit more dramatic, as the U.S. military will be moving units away from the continent as part of its planned pivot to Asia. In the short term this demilitarization seems to make sense given the priorities of European economies, but taking the long view, it’s a pretty momentous development in modern history.   (photo: Qiao Tianfu/PLA Daily)

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