Southeast Asia has flourished into a "buyer's market for defense equipment," said Jon Grevatt, Asia-Pacific industry reporter for IHS Jane's.
Countries including Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia are the ideal buyers for the global defense industry: They have the money, they have the capabilities to used advanced equipment and they are facing strategic pressures that compel purchases, Grevatt explained. Recognizing this, defense contractors in roughly 25 separate countries are competing to sell their wares in the region.
Vietnam Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Pham Binh Minh told Reuters two weeks ago that his country would welcome a chance to buy U.S. arms and "set up a comprehensive partnership with the United States."
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Russia currently dominates sales in the region, with Jane's estimating that it has accounted for about 40 percent of the market in recent years, followed by the United States with 20 percent. The rest of the sales are split between several European countries, South Korea and China.
Russia's hold on the market is quickly slipping, however. Countries are looking to diversify their defense suppliers because they "don't want to be dependent on one seller" and because they want to be able to shop around for the best price, Grevatt said. Additionally, he explained, Russia has not been as willing to share its technological know-how as suppliers from Europe or South Korea.