John Pomfret reports for the Washington Post:
The nations of Southeast Asia are building up their militaries, buying submarines and jet fighters at a record pace and edging closer strategically to the United States as a hedge against China’s rise and its claims to all of the South China Sea.
Weapons acquisitions in the region almost doubled from 2005 to 2009 compared with the five preceding years, according to data released by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute this year.
“There is a threat perception among some of the countries in Southeast Asia,” said Siemon Wezeman, senior fellow at the institute. “China is an issue there.”
The buying spree is set to continue, with reports that Vietnam has agreed to pay $2.4 billion for six Russian Kilo-class submarines and a dozen Su-30MKK jet fighters equipped for maritime warfare. This is in addition to Australia’s stated commitment to buy or build nine more submarines and bolster its air force with 100 U.S.-built F-35s. Malaysia has also paid more than $1 billion for two diesel submarines from France, and Indonesia has recently announced that it, too, will acquire new submarines.