STOCKHOLM • Faced with constant missile and nuclear threats from its belligerent northern neighbour, South Korea is boosting its arms sales and aims to become a major exporter, a study said.
Arms sales by the world's top 100 defence contractors, meanwhile, rose last year for the first time since 2010, to US$374.8 billion (S$507 billion), according to the study by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri).
Of this, South Korea's arms sector accounted for 2.2 per cent or US$8.4 billion - a 20.6 per cent rise in sales compared with 2015, the report said.
"The increasing nuclear weapons capability in North Korea has led to major investments in South Korea," Sipri senior researcher Pieter Wezeman told Agence France-Presse.
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 US", said Mr Wezeman.
Once a mainly agricultural backwater devastated by war, South Korea has been one of the world's largest importers of military equipment and technology - mostly from the United States - for decades, but its domestic sector has grown rapidly in recent years.
The country increased defence spending by 7 per cent in its 2018 budget, the biggest rise since 2009.
President Moon Jae In said last week that his country must achieve "overwhelming" military superiority over North Korea to preserve its own peace and security.
South Korean arms exports, which amounted to US$253 million in 2006, reached US$2.5 billion last year, according to official data.
The country's missiles, howitzers, submarines and warplanes are particularly popular in South-east Asia, Eastern Europe and South America.
Globally, US producers alone accounted for 57.9 per cent of the total sales figure, ahead of the British (9.6 per cent), the Russian (7.1 per cent) and the French (5.0 per cent).
Sales by Lockheed Martin, the world's biggest arms producer, climbed 10.7 per cent, driven largely by deliveries of its F-35 fighter jet.
Sipri said growth in arms sales was triggered by "military operations in several countries and persistent regional tensions that are leading to an increased demand for weapons".
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, BLOOMBERG