Submarines and new fighter aircraft will be increased as an increase in defense spending in the region (photo : Defense Industry Daily)
Beijing - Countries around Asia have been boosting their militaries, with some speculating the moves have been made with one eye on China.
According to the latest data released by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, weapon purchases in Southeast Asian region almost doubled from 2005 to 2009.
The Washington Post, which published the report, said Southeast Asian nations are building up their militaries and "edging closer strategically to the US as a hedge against China's rise," which the newspaper said has already itself become an "issue".
However, Li Qinggong, deputy secretary-general of the China Council for National Security Policy Studies, said China was not the driving factor behind the buying binge.
Terrorism threats at home, upgrading weapons and military competition in the region are the three main reasons for the notable increase in arms spending, Li said.
"There are a number of anti-government terrorist organizations in countries such as Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia, and the countries need to improve their military capacities," Li added.
The report said 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.
Australia is committed to buying or building nine more submarines and bolstering its air force with 100 US-built F-35s.
As well, Malaysia has paid more than $1 billion for two diesel submarines from France, and Indonesia has recently announced it too will acquire new submarines.
Hanoi's billion-dollar deal with Moscow, signed in December last year, is reportedly by far the biggest agreement the two have struck since Moscow pulled its remaining military presence out of Vietnam at the end of the Cold War two decades ago, according to the Bangkok Post. It also quoted Gavin Greenwood, a regional security analyst with Hong Kong based Allan and Associates as saying that the deal "may reflect domestic political concerns more than any external military threat".
On the other hand, the United States has been seen feeling cozier with China's neighbors.
Noticeable events include a joint military drill between Washington and Seoul in the Yellow Sea last month, Vietnamese officials boarding the USS carrier George Washington this week, as well as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's 'enthusiasm' over the South China Sea, expressed during the ASEAN summit in Hanoi last month.
"The United States is using (good relationships with) small Asian nations such as Vietnam and ROK to close in on China," said Yuan Peng, head of US studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.