Global military spending reached $1.2 billion last year -- 37 percent more than a decade ago -- according to a report released Monday. The US maintains by far the world's largest military budget.
With $529 billion (396 billion euros) set aside for military purposes in 2006 -- up from $505 billion 2005 -- the United States accounted for 46 percent of the total global military budget, reported the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) on Monday.
"The increase in US military spending has to a large extent been driven by supplemental allocations for those operations and policies associated with the global war on terrorism," the institute said in its annual report.
Britain, France, China and Japan followed the US, each representing four to five percent of global military spending.
China becomes Asia's top spender. "In 2006, China surpassed Japan as the biggest military spender (in Asia)," said SIPRI researcher Elisabeth Skons. "As late as 1999 China's spending was half of Japan's."
From 2005 to 2006, the largest regional increase occurred in Eastern Europe, where the military budget rose by 12 percent overall. Azerbaijan and Belarus ranked in as the individual countries with the biggest growth in military spending, at 82 and 56 percent respectively.
Looking back over the past decade, significant increases have been registered in Central Asia and Russia, though the Stockholm-based institute said completely reliable data was not available for those areas.
Decreases were recorded in Western Europe and Central America.
SIPRI also reported that the international arms trade has been on the rise since 2002. The US and Russia were the largest arms exporters in 2006, with revenues of $7.9 billion and $6.7 billion respectively. Germany exported $3.9 billion worth of weapons, making it the third largest arms dealer in the world.
China and India were the world's largest arms buyers. Other major importers included Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Outgoing SIPRI director Alyson Bayles said that increased spending on armaments was a "matter of concern since it was taking away money" from efforts to combat poverty or deal with climate change. (ends)