S. Korea is world’s 4th-largest customer of U.S. arms: data

SEOUL, Dec. 16 (Yonhap/APP):South Korea was the fourth-largest buyer of U.S. weapons over the past 10 years, government data showed Monday.

According to the global defense market yearbook published by South Korea’s Defense Agency for Technology and Quality, the United States exported weapons worth US$93.1 billion between 2009 and 2018 to the outside world.

Of the total, South Korea bought $6.28 billion, standing at the fourth spot in the world.

Saudi Arabia was the No. 1 customer by purchasing U.S. arms worth $13.47 billion, followed by Australia with $7.76 billion and the United Arab Emirates with $6.92 billion. Japan came in eighth with $3.64 billion.

The yearbook did not elaborate on what kinds of weapons the countries have bought from the U.S., though major weapons that South Korea has imported from its ally include 40 F-35A stealth fighters, four unmanned Global Hawks and various types of missiles.

Of the U.S.’ outbound shipments of weapons over the past decade, aircraft accounted for 56.1 percent, followed by missiles with 16.5 percent and armored vehicles with 11.8 percent.

During the cited period, the U.S. imported weapons worth $7.67 billion from foreign countries, including Germany, Britain, Canada and France. South Korea was not included in the top 20.

South Korea has stressed its “reasonable and fair” level of contributions for the stationing of the 28,500-strong U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) during ongoing bilateral defense cost-sharing negotiations, though the U.S. has been pressuring Seoul to pay more.

Washington has reportedly demanded a fivefold increase in Seoul’s payments to $5 billion next year. Under this year’s SMA, Seoul agreed to pay about $870 million.

The yearbook also showed that South Korea ranked 10th in the world in terms of defense expenditure last year with $43.1 billion, with its defense spending surging 28 percent over the past decade.

The U.S. retained the top position in 2018 with $649 billion, accounting for 36 percent of the world’s total defense spending, and China came next with $250 billion, or 14 percent of the total, according to the data.

Saudi Arabia took the third spot with $67.6 billion, followed by India, France, Russia, Britain, Germany and Japan, the yearbook showed.

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