Biggest jump in world defense spending in 10 years

China’s new breed of hypersonic missiles, which were on display in a military parade in Beijing last October, are worrying Western officials. (AFP)
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Updated 15 February 2020

Biggest jump in world defense spending in 10 years

  • US increased spending to $684.6 billion, up 6.6 percent from the previous budget
  • China's defense budget rose to $181.1 billion, up also by about 6.6 percent

MUNICH: Global spending on defense rose by 4 percent in 2019, the largest growth in 10 years, led by big increases in the US and China, a study said Friday.

The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) said the rise was fueled by growing rivalries between big powers, new military technologies and rumbling conflicts from Ukraine to Libya.

Beijing’s military modernization program — which includes developing new hard-to-detect hypersonic missiles — is alarming Washington and helping drive US defense spending, the IISS said.

Its annual “Military Balance” report said the increase alone in US spending from 2018 to 2019 — $53.4 billion — was almost as big as Britain’s entire defense budget.

“Spending rose as economies recovered from the effects of the financial crisis, but increases have also been driven by sharpening threat perceptions,” IISS chief John Chipman said, launching the report at the Munich Security Conference.

Both the US and China increased spending by 6.6 percent, the report said, to $684.6 billion and $181.1 billion respectively.

FASTFACTS

Increase alone in US spending from 2018 to 2019 was $53.4 billion, almost as big as Britain’s entire defense budget

China’s military modernization program includes developing new hard-to-detect hypersonic missiles

Russia has already announced the entry into service of its own hypersonic missile system

Europe — driven by ongoing concerns about Russia — stepped up spending by 4.2 percent, but this only brought the continent’s defense budget back to 2008 levels, before the global financial crisis brought cuts.

European NATO members have been seeking to increase spending to placate President Donald Trump, who has accused them of freeloading on the US.

The mercurial president’s anger over spending has fueled concern about his commitment to the transatlantic alliance, culminating in an explosive 2018 summit where he launched a blistering public attack on Germany.

Giving the opening address at the annual security gathering, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier warned that Trump’s “America First” strategy had shaken up the international order and fueled insecurity.

“We are witnessing today an increasingly destructive momentum in global politics,” Steinmeier said. “Every year we are getting further and further away from our goal of creating a more peaceful world through international cooperation.”

Key elements of the international order that developed after the Second World War have come under increasing challenge.

The collapse last year of the Cold War-era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty and the doubts surrounding the renewal of the New START arms reduction treaty, which expires in 2021, have contributed to the mood of instability, the IISS report said.

China’s program of military modernization — described by the IISS as “striking for its scale, speed and ambition” — has unsettled Washington and its allies.

In October, Beijing showed off its DF-17 hypersonic glide vehicle — designed to deliver warheads at huge speeds so as to avoid interception.

Russia, pursuing its own modernization project, has already announced the entry into service of its own hypersonic missile system.

Hypersonic missiles are worrying Western officials, because they are so fast and so manoeuvrable that they make existing defense systems useless and give almost no warning of attack.

A senior NATO official warned that in a hypersonic missile strike, it may not even be clear what the target is “until there’s a boom on the ground.”

Elsewhere, spending in Asia is booming as the continent’s economic success has allowed countries to invest more in their militaries.

Decoder

Hypersonic missiles

These missiles can travel across the world faster than Mach 5, meaning five times the speed of sound, or 6,174 kph, making them hard to track compared to traditional missiles. Hypersonic missiles combine the speed of ballistic missiles with the maneuvering capabilities of cruise missiles and can deliver conventional or nuclear payloads anywhere across the planet in just a few minutes.


Pakistani Umrah pilgrims affected by temporary ban to be compensated

Updated 28 February 2020

Pakistani Umrah pilgrims affected by temporary ban to be compensated

  • “Passengers who have Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) tickets will be able to get full refund from the PIA offices or their travel agents,” the airline’s spokesperson said
  • Saudi Arabia on Thursday placed a temporary ban on Umrah pilgrims to prevent the spread of coronavirus

ISLAMABAD: All Pakistani Umrah pilgrims affected by the temporary travel ban to the Kingdom due to the threat of coronavirus will be compensated, the Saudi Ambassador to Pakistan Nawaf bin Said Al-Malki said on Friday.
“Pakistani Umrah pilgrims who had to travel to Saudi Arabia during the dates of suspension will be compensated in the best possible way,” Al-Malki told Arab News on Friday. “They will be able to travel on the same visa or will be issued a fresh one free of charge.”
Saudi Arabia on Thursday placed a temporary ban on Umrah pilgrims to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
“Passengers who have Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) tickets will be able to get full refund from the PIA offices or their travel agents,” the airline’s spokesperson Abdullah Hafeez Khan told Arab News, adding that it was up to the passengers if they wanted to avail the refund option or get their seats readjusted after the ban.
Meanwhile, Saudi airlines also announced full refund of tickets through a circular which is available through Arab News.
“The Pakistani mission in Saudi Arabia is in touch with the Saudi authorities on this issue and will take all possible measures to facilitate Pakistani pilgrims,” Arshad Munir, spokesperson for the Pakistani Embassy in Saudi Arabia, told Arab News.
Faizan Akhtar, a member of Pakistan’s Umrah Travel Agents’ Association, said that the situation would become clear in the next few days, but all the passengers would get refunds or manage to travel on the same Umrah package after the ban.
“There was a previous incident of flight suspension during the Pakistani-Indian standoff last year which disturbed Umrah pilgrims. They were compensated by the Saudi authorities, who extended their visas without extra charges and airlines adjusted their seats accordingly. We haven’t received any official communication on this so far, but the situation will become clear in the next few days,” Akhtar said.