U.S. Remains Leader in Global Arms Sales, Report Says

By Thom Shanker (New York Times, Sept. 24, 2003)

The United States maintained its dominance in the international arms market last year, especially in sales to developing nations, according to a new Congressional report.

The United States was the leader in total worldwide sales in 2002, with about $13.3 billion, or 45.5 percent of global conventional weapons deals, a rise from $12.1 billion in 2001. Of that, $8.6 billion was to developing nations, or about 48.6 percent of conventional arms deals concluded with developing nations last year, according to the report.

Russia was second in sales to the developing world last year, with $5 billion, followed by France with $1 billion.

While the report focuses on sales and deliveries of conventional weapons from the industrialized world to poorer nations, it also offers a glimpse into such issues as missile proliferation by North Korea and foreign weapons transfers to Iraq.

The new report, "Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations, 1995-2002," was sent to the House and Senate this week by the Congressional Research Service, an arm of the Library of Congress. The annual study, written by Richard F. Grimmett, a specialist in national defense at the research service, is considered the most authoritative resource available to the public on worldwide weapons sales.

From 1999 to 2002, there were no deliveries of surface-to-surface missiles to the Middle East from arms makers in the United States, Russia, China or Europe, the report said.

But the study says 60 surface-to-surface missiles were delivered to the Middle East by nations in the category "All Others," which includes such suppliers as Israel, South Africa and North Korea.

United States officials, both military and civilian, said today that North Korea was the source of the surface-to-surface missile deliveries listed in the report, and of 10 anti-ship missiles delivered to the Middle East in that period.

President Bush has increased public pressure on North Korea and Iran over their nuclear programs, and the administration is organizing a number of joint military exercises to train for the interdiction of possible shipments. The goal of these exercises is to make it more difficult to transmit components of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons ? and the missiles to deliver them.

But difficulties in halting North Korea's missile trade were evident in December, when a North Korean cargo vessel that was not flying a flag was halted off the Horn of Africa by two Spanish warships.

A search revealed 15 Scud missiles hidden beneath the cargo. But the vessel was eventually allowed to sail on with the missiles to its destination in Yemen after officials conceded that neither North Korea nor Yemen had violated any treaties.

In addition to the shipment to Yemen, North Korea is suspected of selling missile technology to Iran and others, Pentagon officials said.

The study says that none of the major arms makers delivered weapons to Iraq from 1999 to 2002 -- or at least not in amounts of more than $50 million, the lowest sales amount included in the study.

But a category of nations labeled "All Other European," which includes formerly Communist states in Central and Eastern Europe, delivered about $100 million worth of weapons to Iraq from 1999 to 2002, although the report does not specify the source of the deliveries.

Ukraine is believed by American officials to have sold an advanced Kolchuga radar system to Iraq, Pentagon officials said.

Arms deals with developing nations in 2002 totaled $17.7 billion, more than the $16.2 billion for 2001 but the second-lowest total for the years 1995 to 2002. (The report measures sales and deliveries in dollar totals adjusted for inflation, called "constant 2002 dollars.")

"Many developing nations have curtailed their expenditures on weaponry primarily due to their limited financial resources," Mr. Grimmett wrote in the report. "To meet their military requirements, in current circumstances, a number of developing nations have placed a greater emphasis on upgrading existing weapons systems while deferring purchases of new and costlier ones."

Total arms transfer agreements reached nearly $29.2 billion in 2002, a decrease from 2001 and the second year in a row that total arms sales dropped, according to the study.

Copyright 2003

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