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The rivalry between America and China has seen both sides step up international arms sales and transfers as they seek to strengthen military ties with key allies, according to a report published on Monday.

The study by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), which examined the volume of international transfers of major weapons between 2008 and 2017, showed China’s arms exports represented 5.7 per cent of the world’s share of arms exports between 2013-17 – up by more than a third from the 4.6 per cent recorded between 2008-12.

The report was published a week after China unveiled an 8.1 per cent increase in military spending over a three-year period, although China’s state media defended the rise as proportionate and low, adding that it would not lead to an arms race with the United States.

The administration of US President Donald Trump has dubbed China as a “rival”, and the latest SIPRI report shows how the US has used arms transfers as a foreign policy tool to offset Beijing’s growing influence.

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For example, US arms deliveries to India grew by 557 per cent between 2008 and 2017, the year China and India became embroiled in a protracted border dispute over the Doklam region in the Himalayas.

“This development is part of the growing strategic partnership between the two countries under which the USA has begun to supply India with advanced military equipment,” the report said.

The US has also started to increase its security cooperation with Vietnam, which is embroiled in a dispute with Beijing over the South China Sea.

In 2017 it delivered one patrol ship, the USS Morgenthau, to Vietnam – the first major US arms transfer to that country.

Tensions between China and Japan in the East China Sea also saw Japan moving closer to the US, the report said.

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