As Asia gets more focus, US arms pacts in Middle East remain strong

The White House is placing more emphasis on the Asia-Pacific region, officials and analysts say, because it believes that region will play a major role in the course of 21st century.

That shift will include moving some military forces and platforms out of the Middle East and into the vast Asia-Pacific region. And, as a string of recent actions show, the White House also has been quietly arming America’s allies there as a check on China’s military power.

Washington and Taiwan agreed to the biggest arms package in 2010, at $2.7 billion. Australia was next with a $1.3 billion pact, followed by South Korea at $640 million. Singapore and Washington agreed to $530 million in arms transactions.

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The Asia category includes Pakistan, which got a $470 million arms package in 2010. But Pakistan is closely tied to the U.S. fight against the Taliban and al Qaeda, which is typically considered a Middle East issue.

In that volatile region, Egypt, then led by Hosni Mubarak, agreed to buy $1.8 billion from Washington. Saudi Arabia got a $1.5 billion package, with Israel and Iraq next with $1.1 billion and $840 million, respectively. Jordan was next at $650 million.

The figures for Saudi Arabia and Israel underline the administration’s concerns about Iran’s nuclear weapons ambition.

The CRS data shows the weapons Washington actually delivered to allies in 2010 is about evenly divided between the Middle East and Asia.

Saudi Arabia received $1.2 billion in weapons, the lone nation to top the billion-dollar mark.

Egypt was second with $830 million, and Pakistan got $690 million, according to CRS. Taiwan received $660 million, with Israel and South Korea each receiving $640 million worth of arms.

Australia and Japan got a combined $1 billion, and the United Arab Emirates received $440 million.