Global military spending, driven in part by Chinese naval expansion, reached record levels in 2020 despite the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and ensuing economic contraction, a British think-tank said on Thursday.
The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) said military spending reached $1.8 trillion (1.5 trillion euros) last year -- a 3.9 percent increase in real terms over figures for 2019.
The London-based think-tank said in its annual "Military Balance" publication that expenditure rose "despite the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent contraction in global economic output".
The United States remained the world's largest defence spender in 2020, IISS said, accounting for 40 percent of $738 billion globally.
China, by comparison, accounted for 10.6 percent or $193.3 billion.
Beijing's military spending was the driving force behind growth in Asia's overall defence expenditure, and accounted for 25 percent of the continent's spending in 2020. Asia's upward trend in military expenditure continued last year albeit at a slightly slower pace than in 2019.
The IISS also highlighted Chinese military expansion and the significant growth of its naval fleet, a response driven in part by to Beijing's ambitions in the South China Sea.
Total European defence spending grew by two percent in real terms in 2020, the IISS said.
Europe's Nato members also continued increasing military expenditure, continuing a trend seen every year since 2014 as threat perceptions sharpened following Russia's seizure of Crimea. However, most Nato members are still far from the objective of devoting two percent of their GDP to defence by 2024.