Southeast Asia maritime build-up accelerates, raising risks in disputed seas

Reuters, By Siva Govindasamy, May 25

Southeast Asian nations are prioritizing spending on their navies and coastguards amid rising tensions in the South China Sea, but as their capabilities grow, so does the risk that any confrontation in the contested waterway will be harder to contain.

Annual defense spending in Southeast Asia is projected to reach $52 billion by 2020, from an expected $42 billion this year, according to IHS Janes Defence Weekly.

The 10 nations of Southeast Asia are expected to spend $58 billion on new military kit over the next five years, with naval procurement comprising a large chunk, it said.

Much of this equipment is likely to be used in and around the South China Sea, where Beijing’s creation of artificial islands has alarmed some Asian countries and stoked tension between China’s navy and the U.S. air force.

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