World military spending has risen by 37 per cent in 10 years to $1.2 trillion, a US-led trend unlikely to be broken soon, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) said on Monday.
World military expenditure was up by 3.5 per cent in 2006 from 2005 and by 37 per cent since 1997, SIPRI said in its annual report.
The United States accounted for 46 per cent of the spending last year far ahead of any other country and was responsible for 62 per cent of the total increase.
The United States registered spending of $528.7 billion in 2006.
"The increase in US military spending has to a large extent been driven by supplemental allocations for those operations and policies associated with the 'global war on terrorism'," the institute said.
The United States was followed by Britain, France, China and Japan, which each account for around four to five per cent of world military expenditure. The top 15 countries accounted for 83 per cent of spending.
The region where military expenditure increased the most in relative terms in 2006 was eastern Europe, where it rose by 12 per cent.
Decreases were meanwhile noted in western Europe and central America.
Over the 10-year period 1997-2006, Central Asia was the region that had the highest increase, registering a 73 per cent rise. However, SIPRI noted that the estimate was "somewhat unreliable" due to the lack of data for certain countries.
Azerbaijan and Belarus registered rises of 82 and 56 per cent respectively from 2005, the two countries with the highest relative increases in 2006.
Russia, the fourth largest spender in Europe, increased its expenditures by almost 12 per cent last year, building on a 19 per cent increase in 2005.
"Since the start of this increasing trend in 1998, Russia's spending has increased by 155 per cent," SIPRI said, noting however that changes to Moscow's budgetary system made it difficult to follow exact movements in the trend.
Increasing financial resources have been decisive in driving spending upwards, SIPRI said.
China, which has seen a rapid increase in spending which exceeded Japan's for the first time last year, "is the prime example of a country where a booming economy, amongst other factors, has allowed a steep rise in military expenditure," it said.
"There seems to be little chance of there being a rapid decline in world military expenditure, which could allow governments to give higher priority to social expenditure," it concluded.
The upward trend in spending "is unlikely to be reversed while the world's largest military spender remains at war."
Meanwhile, SIPRI said sales by the world's 100 largest weapons manufacturers rose by three percent in 2005 to 290 billion dollars, spurred primarily by the United States.
US companies and those in western Europe dominated SIPRI's Top 100 list, together accounting for 92 per cent of arms sales in 2005, the latest year for which figures are available, the institute said.
Forty US firms accounted for 63 per cent of sales, while 32 western European companies accounted for 29 per cent and nine Russian companies accounted for two percent.
Companies based in Japan, Israel and India accounted for most of the remaining six per cent.