Global arms industry: First rise in arms sales since 2010, says SIPRI

South Korea's arms industry accounted for 2.2% of global top 100 producers' sales in 2016, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) said in a report listing the world's "top 100" military services.

Based on sales by the world's 100 biggest arms producers, the report pointed at an increase of 1.9 percent (based on 2015 United States dollar values) from 2015 with $374.8 billion spent on arms and military services. This is the first year of growth in SIPRI Top 100 arms sales after five consecutive years of decline. That decline followed an increase of 60% over the period 2002-2010.

South Korea's arms sales hit record levels previous year, pushed by the continuous military threat from North Korea, complicated relations with China and a government decision to increase domestic arms production, a Swedish think tank said Monday.

Russian arms manufacturers who are close third to the U.S. and European companies recorded combined sales of $26.6 billion in 2016, a 7 percent growth. But, the SIPRI says that South Korea has dominated the emerging producers block with 20.6 per cent increase in sales of arms past year. The Lockheed Martin, the world's largest arms producer, registered a sharp increase in sales by 10.7 per cent in 2016.

The Brexit decision does not seem to have had an impact on the arms sales of British companies, which rose 2.0 percent in 2016, SIPRI said. The arms sales of BAE Systems, the fourth largest arms producer globally, remained stable (up by 0.4 per cent).

According to SIPRI, arms sales by Russian firms in the top 100 continued to grow, rising 3.8 percent to $26.6 billion in 2016.

"The increasing nuclear weapons capability in North Korea has led to major investments in South Korea", Sipri senior researcher Pieter Wezeman told Agence France-Presse.

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Over half the 20 weapon sellers listed by SIPRI in its report were U.S companies. Sales by South Korean firms increased by over 20% in 2016, to $8.4 billion.

South Korea, meanwhile, took a step toward its goal of becoming a major arms exporter, dominating arms sales by emerging producers that also includes Brazil, India and Turkey.

Having gone through a massive industrial development, South Korea is "increasingly using weapons and technology that can compete with what has been supplied by Europe and the US", said Mr Wezeman.

Faced with constant missile and nuclear threats from its belligerent northern neighbour, South Korea is boosting its arms sales and aims to become a major exporter, a study said on Monday.

SIPRI's "other established producers" category covers companies based in Australia, Israel, Japan, Poland, Singapore and Ukraine.

Global arms industry trades in green.

  • Rita Burton