Asia Arms Race heats up over South China Sea & India a future world player in military exports #Hindustan360

#Hindustan360

Since 2010 China expands its influence in the disputed South China Sea, an arms race has developed among other nations with claims in the area. View more at #Hindustan360.

China claims most of the 3.5 million-square-kilometer South China Sea as its territory. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims in the waterway. The sea is rich in fisheries and is thought to hold valuable resources such as oil and natural gas. It has patrolled with coast guard ships and sent its aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, to carry out military drills.

China has also deployed oil rigs and created artificial islands in the disputed sea. Satellite images appear to show the country has also constructed major military facilities on some of the islands. Beijing has defended its activities in the South China Sea. Security experts believe Chinese navy and coast guard expansion will continue.

Report by: IHS Jane’s Defense Weekly

According to a report by global defense publication IHS Jane’s Defense Weekly, China’s defense budget is estimated to nearly double in 2020 from 2010 levels. The report said that by 2020, China’s military budget is expected to reach $233 billion.

This expansion has caused other countries in the region to build up arms to be able to counter possible Chinese threats. Zack Cooper is with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, or CSIS, a research group based in Washington, D.C.

Overall, defense spending among other states surrounding the South China Sea is estimated to reach $250 billion by 2020, according to Jane’s.

Upgrading arms capability to counter China

In Malaysia, officials announced last November that the Royal Malaysian Navy plans to replace 50 aging vessels to protect its waters from regional threats. There have already been incidents involving Chinese ships entering Malaysian territorial waters.

Vietnam, along with other regional nations, is looking to cut defense costs and spend less on the military equipment it needs. This reportedly led Hanoi to consider buying surface-to-air missiles from India, which is looking to become a future world player in military exports.

One South China Sea claimant with a large incentive to upgrade its military capabilities is Vietnam, according to Cooper. “The Chinese efforts to reclaim land, at the seven features in the Spratlys, directly threaten a large number of Vietnamese-held features. Plus, the ongoing dispute over resource exploitation near the Paracels is a huge concern for Vietnam.”

However, most military experts believe it will take years for India to become a large-scale global provider of high-end military equipment. Nations expected to provide new weapons to South China Sea claimants include Japan, South Korea and Australia.

Japan was the country of choice for the Philippines in a deal to lease two TC-90 training aircraft to support its maritime defense forces. The agreement is notable because it is the first transfer of equipment from Japan’s Self-Defense Forces to another country.

Nuclear threat from North Korea

Another driver of the arms race across Asia is the North Korean nuclear dispute. North Korea has angered its neighbors and much of the world by carrying out a number of recent missile tests. American forces have already begun deploying the THAAD anti-missile system to South Korea.

But Cooper says if North Korea continues its current path of fast missile and nuclear development, Japan and South Korea may eventually find the need to respond militarily.

“In Japan, you might see some more forceful responses. There’s been a growing debate about strike capability in Japan – basically developing capabilities that would give Japan the ability to respond to a North Korean missile attack. And this is a big change in Japanese defense posture, so it’s something that folks should watch closely.”

If approved, the government change would be historic in allowing Japan to strike overseas targets for the first time since World War II. Japan’s ruling party has also urged Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government to take steps to obtain its own missiles to counter North Korean threats.

This would also be a big change for Japan, which in the past has heavily relied on its close ally the United States to protect it. But President Donald Trump has been critical of too much overseas military funding and even threatened to pull U.S. troops out of Japan if Tokyo does not agree to pay more of the costs.

Bryan Lynn wrote this story for VOA Learning English, based on reports from VOA News, the Associated Press, Reuters and other sources. Hai Do was the editor.

View more at #Hindustan360.