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US still dominate arms market, but world total falls
Updated: 2004-08-31 11:21

The United States continued to dominate the global arms market last year, especially when measured in weapons deals to developing nations, although the total value of arms sales worldwide tumbled for the third consecutive year, according to a new U.S. Congressional study.

The United States maintained its lead in worldwide weapons sales in 2003, signing deals worth more than $14.5 billion, or 56.7 percent of all arms agreements, up from $13.6 billion in 2002, the study showed.

Russia ranked second, signing agreements worth $4.3 billion, or 16.8 percent of all global arms sales deals in 2003. That figure was down from nearly $6 billion in 2002.

Germany was the third largest merchant in the global arms market for 2003, signing deals worth $1.4 billion.

The report, "Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations," is published each year by the Congressional Research Service, part of the Library of Congress. The unclassified study is considered the most authoritative compilation of statistics on global sales of conventional weapons that is available to the public.

The study, nearly 90 pages of statistics and analysis, offers glimpses into the speculative and secret world of missile proliferation by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).

Between 1996 and 1999, no surface-to-surface missiles were delivered to developing nations by the United States, Russia or European arms manufacturers. But 30 such missiles were delivered during that period by a state classified by the report as "Other," a category that includes DPRK, Israel and South Africa. Between 2000 and 2003, 20 more surface-to-surface missiles were delivered by the nations in that category, according to the study.

Although the report does not identify the country that manufactured and delivered the weapons, Pentagon analysts say the missile proliferation statistics almost certainly refer to DPRK.

Of those 50 missiles, 10 were delivered in Asia, and 40 to the Middle East. The report does not identify the recipients of the missiles.

According to the study, the value of all weapons transfer agreements worldwide was more than $25.6 billion in 2003, the third consecutive year that the dollar total for global arms deals declined. When measured in dollars adjusted for inflation to give an accurate comparison to the $25.6 billion figure, the value of global arms agreements has steadily fallen, from $41 billion in 2000.

"Nonetheless, the developing world continues to be the primary focus of foreign arms sales activity by conventional weapons suppliers," Richard F. Grimmett, a specialist in national defense at the research service, wrote in his introduction to the study.

In 2003, arms transfer agreements to developing countries topped $13.7 billion, or 53.6 percent of all weapons deals worldwide. This was a notable decrease from the $17.4 billion total in 2002.

Of those arms deals with developing countries, the United States signed deals for more than $6.2 billion, or about 45.4 percent, while Russia signed for $3.9 billion, or 23.4 percent of the sales in 2003.

Mr. Grimmett's research found that "numerous developing nations have reduced their weapons purchases primarily due to their lack of sufficient funds to pay for such weaponry," according to the study. "Even those prospective arms purchasers in the developing world with significant financial assets have exercised restraint and caution before embarking upon new and costly weapons procurement endeavors," he wrote.

What Mr. Grimmett termed "the unsettled state of the global economy" prompted a number of developing nations to focus on upgrading their existing arsenals rather than signing deals to purchase new weapons systems.

Fewer large-scale arms purchases were being made by the wealthier oil nations in the Middle East, whose earlier buying sprees contributed to a bull market in weapons when Iraq under Saddam Hussein was a regional threat. The report said it remained uncertain whether the Persian Gulf states would now perceive a potentially hostile Iran as a new motivation to improve their arsenals.

Some relatively large arms purchases were made by developing nations in Asia, according to the report.

Between 2000 and 2003,the nations that signed the highest-value weapons deals during that period were the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, India, China, Israel, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Singapore and Kuwait, according to the report.

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