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Study: North Korea threats spark S. Korean arms sales

AFP-Jiji STOCKHOLM (AFP-Jiji) — Faced with constant missile and nuclear threats from its belligerent northern neighbor, South Korea is boosting its arms sales and aims to become a major exporter, a study said on Monday.

South Korea’s arms industry accounted for 2.2 percent of the global top 100 producers’ sales in 2016, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) said in a report listing the world’s “top 100” military services.

South Korean arms-producing companies’ combined sales totaled $8.4 billion the same year, 20.6 percent rise in sales compared to 2015, SIPRI added.

“The increasing nuclear weapons capability in North Korea has led to major investments in South Korea,” SIPRI Senior Researcher Pieter Wezeman told AFP.

In defiance of repeated international condemnations and sanctions, Pyongyang fired an intercontinental ballistic missile last week, which reached an altitude of 4,475 kilometers before splashing into the sea 950 kilometers east of its launch site, North Korean state media said.

The North, which says it needs nuclear weapons to protect itself from “hostile” U.S. forces, has vowed to accelerate its weapons programs in response to “evil” sanctions imposed by the U.N. Security Council.

Once a mainly agricultural backwater devastated by war, South Korea has been one of the world’s largest importers of military equipment and technology for decades — mostly from the United States — but in recent years its domestic sector has grown rapidly.

In the face of North Korean threats, the proportion of government spending that Seoul devotes to defense is among the world’s highest outside Middle East and African conflict zones, according to SIPRI’s 2016 figures.

South Korea is turning “to its own arms industry to supply its demand for weapons” and “aiming to realize its goal of becoming a major arms exporter,” SIPRI Senior Researcher Siemon Wezeman said in a statement.

Having gone through a massive industrial development, South Korea is “increasingly using weapons and technology that can compete with what has been supplied by Europe and the U.S.,” according to Pieter Wezeman.

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