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South Korea a top buyer of U.S. weapons, annual report says

By Elizabeth Shim
South Korea a top buyer of U.S. weapons, annual report says
U.S.-manufactured aircraft and related weaponry accounted for 56 percent of U.S. weapons exports, according to a South Korean government agency. File Photo courtesy of U.S. Air Force

Dec. 16 (UPI) -- South Korea was one of the top 10 buyers of U.S.-manufactured weapons in the last five years, according to a Seoul government agency.

South Korea's Defense Agency for Technology and Quality, an organization under the country's Defense Acquisition Program Administration, said in its annual report on the world defense market South Korea is the fourth-largest importer of U.S. weapons, CBS No Cut News reported Monday.

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Saudi Arabia ranked No. 1, importing about $13.5 billion of U.S. weapons from 2014 to 2018, followed by Australia at $7.8 billion, and the United Arab Emirates at $6.92 billion. South Korea imported $6.28 billion worth of U.S. weapons in the same time period, according to South Korean news service Newsis.

U.S.-manufactured aircraft and related weaponry accounted for 56 percent of U.S. weapons exports. A total of 14 countries purchased 255 U.S. high-tech fighter jets, including South Korea, which acquired 40 F-35A stealth fighters and Global Hawks, or reconnaissance aircraft.

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Seoul has also purchased "hundreds of missiles" from the United States, according to press reports.

The United States has sold more than 100 F-35 fighter jets to Japan; it is also the world's largest military spender. According to the South Korean research, the United States spent $649 billion on defense in 2018, which accounts for 36 percent of global defense spending.

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The United States also spent more than the next seven countries combined: China, Saudi Arabia, India, France, Russia, Britain and Germany.

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Japan was the world's eighth-biggest military spender in 2018, slightly surpassing South Korea at $46.6 billion. South Korea's imports of weapons accounted for 3.1 percent of total global weapons imports, according to DATQ.

President Donald Trump has promoted U.S. weapons sales to Japan and South Korea.

In 2017, the White House had stated Trump "provided his conceptual approval for the purchase of many billions of dollars' worth of military weapons and equipment from the United States by South Korea."

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A South Korean DATQ official said Monday fighter jets are expected to continue to be a major U.S. export, according to Newsis.

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