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Asian powers double defense spending in a decade

WASHINGTON — Asia’s top powers have doubled defense spending in the past decade, spurred by the explosion in military expenditure by China, new research shows.

While troop numbers have remained constant, overall annual spending has grown to $224 billion in 2011, according to a report released Monday by the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies. Spending particularly accelerated in the second half of the decade.

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The research covers China, Japan, India, South Korea, and Taiwan, which account for some 87 percent of Asia’s defense spending.

China’s share of the total spending has risen from about 20 percent in 2000 to 40 percent in 2011. The report’s authors noted that the official figures they cite probably underestimate how much China actually spends.

Only the United States spends more on defense: about $670 billion this year, more than double the amount spent in 2001.

China’s lightning economic rise and elevation as a military power have unnerved its neighbors and drawn more attention from the United States, long the preeminent force in the Asia-Pacific region. China eclipsed Japan as the top defense spender in the region in 2005. China’s official defense spending in 2011 was $89.9 billion, followed by Japan with $58.2 billion, and India with $37 billion. Meanwhile, defense spending in European countries has dropped.

Asia’s elevated global role and economic growth, along with China’s military buildup, have prompted the Obama administration to devote more military resources to the region.

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