Updated 11:29 AM EDT, Tue, Jun 16, 2020

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China's Rising Military Strength Drives up Defense Spending in Asia and US: Experts

Tech for war

(Photo : Getty Images) DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missiles on parade.

Fears over China's growing military strength -- along with the country's creeping seizure of contested territories in the South China Sea -- is driving an increase in military spending in Asia and the United States, according to experts.

The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) in London released a report on Tuesday indicating an increase in military spending in Asia even as average worldwide military expenditures fell by some 4.2 percent. 

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"Asia now spends nearly $100bn more on defence than European members of NATO," according to the IISS Military Balance 2016 report.

"Widespread Concern"

China led the growth with an 11 percent increase in its defense budget last year.  The Philippines followed, spending 10 percent more on the modernization and maintenance of its aging military assets than it did the previous year.

The IISS report suggests that worries over China's aggressive military posture in the South China and East China Seas have made "the military dimensions of the Asia-Pacific's international politics" more prominent than ever.

"They're having the effect -- and I don't know when this will dawn on them -- of causing widespread concern in the region, which makes others react, including others react by joining up with us," US defense secretary Ashton Carter said recently, describing China's military activities in the South China and East China Seas.

India -- which last year announced plans to conduct oil exploration off the coast of Vietnam -- spent $48 billion on its military in 2015.  Pacifist Japan allocated $41 billion for its self-defense assets, while Australia -- which has openly challenged Beijing's authority over the South China Sea -- afforded its military force a budget of $23 billion.

China dominated defense spending in the region, however, investing $146 billion for its military forces in 2015.  Beijing's military budget accounted for around 40 percent of all military expenditures in the region last year, according to the IISS.

Technological Competition

The US -- by far the world's biggest military spender -- invested around $560 billion on its defense forces in 2015, according to a US Department of Defense report.

The Pentagon allocated a significant portion of that money into efforts designed to counter China's military build-up, according to US officials.

Experts have said that Beijing's long-term political objectives in the Asia-Pacific calls for heavier investments in military research and development programs.  These investments have allowed China to make tremendous strides in the field of ballistic missile and cyber warfare technology, among others.

"Western military technological superiority, a core assumption of the past two decades, is eroding," John Chipman, IISS director general, told the press in London earlier this week. "Slowing this emerging trend or reversing it will be a key preoccupation of western strategists in the coming decade."

For 2017, the Pentagon has proposed a budget amounting to nearly $583 billion, and again, US defense officials claim a substantial chunk of the planned outlay will go to defense programs that seek to outpace -- or at least match -- the modernization of China's military.

"We're making all these investments that you see in our defense budget that are specifically oriented towards checking the development of the Chinese military," Carter said when he unveiled the Pentagon's proposed allocations in January.

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