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Defense Spending Dips in U.S., Rises Elsewhere

Defense spending fell in the United States last year, but rose in many other countries around the world, especially China and Saudi Arabia, according to a new report.

Global defense expenditures totaled $1.7 trillion in 2013, a decrease of 1.9 percent in real dollars from the previous year, driven largely by automatic budget cuts in the U.S., according to a report released Tuesday by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

In the U.S., military spending fell 7.8 from the previous year to about $640 billion -- still more than a third of the worldwide total, according to the document. Excluding the country, international military spending increased 1.8 percent, a gain fueled by rising defense budgets in China, Russia and Saudi Arabia, it states.

"The increase in military spending in emerging and developing countries continues unabated," Sam Perlo-Freeman, director of the institute's military expenditure program, said in a press release accompanying the report.

Indeed, Saudi Arabia surpassed the United Kingdom, Japan and France to become the fourth-largest defense spender, with a $67 billion military budget, the report states. As a share of its economy, Saudi Arabia spent more on defense than any other country, at 9.3 percent, it states.

China was the No. 2 defense spender, with an estimated $188 billion, and Russia was No. 3, with an estimated $88 billion, according to the document.

"While China has been behaving more assertively in recent years in territorial disputes with Japan in the East China Sea, and with the Philippines and Vietnam in the South China Sea, these heightened tensions do not seem to have changed the trend in Chinese military spending, which represents a long-term policy of rising military spending in line with economic growth," it states.

Russia, meanwhile, is moving forward with a so-called state armaments plan to spend some $705 billion over the next decade to replace 70 percent of its weapons with new and upgraded equipment by 2020, according to the report.

China, Russia and Saudi Arabia were among almost two dozen that doubled their military expenditures over the past decade, according to the document. On the other hand, defense spending continued to fall in North America, Western and Central Europe and Oceania, it states.

England, which once boasted the strongest navy in the world, is no longer counted among the five countries with the largest levels of defense dollars, according to the report.

Similarly, Canada, which is debating whether to buy the stealthy, radar-evading F-35 fighter jet made by Lockheed Martin Corp., fell off the list of 15 countries with the highest levels of military expenditures, according to the document.

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