At the same time, Vietnam, the Philippines and other Southeast Asian nations have challenged Beijing over claims to swathes of the South China Sea that could be rich in oil and gas.
China is now the world’s fifth-largest arms exporter, replacing Britain in the list of the top five arms dealing countries between 2008 and 2012, SIPRI said in a March report. Pakistan was the main recipient of its goods, the report said.
The administration of U.S. President Barack Obama says it is shifting its security focus to the Asia-Pacific region.
Military spending is up around 8 percent in the Middle East and North Africa. In a region transformed by popular uprisings and reeling from a bloody civil war in Syria, Western allies such as Saudi Arabia and Oman have accounted for much of the increase in their efforts to counter the strategic challenge posed by Iran.
In North Africa, countries such as Algeria have bolstered spending in the face of rebel threats, SIPRI said.
Russia’s military spending rose 16 percent in 2012, which analysts said reflected President Vladimir Putin’s efforts since he returned to power last May to bolster the armed forces and improve weaponry.