Although the military enjoys a privileged position in Vietnam’s political system, force modernization has not been a priority in government spending for most of the last three decades.
Philippine strategic culture has combined a reliance on the United States for external defense and a focus on internal threats, especially the Muslim and Communist insurgents on the southern island of Mindanao. This has resulted in a chronic neglect of the navy, air force, and coast guard.
Aware that their navy and air force are underequipped, Malaysia’s military planners have developed several plans to upgrade old platforms and acquire new ones in recent years. However, military spending has never been prioritized in the government budget, and most plans for force modernization have been repeatedly delayed or cancelled.
Since the South China Sea reemerged around 2008 as a hotspot of simmering conflict, conventional wisdom has held that tension in the area is driving an arms race among its littoral countries. A closer look at the facts and trends suggests otherwise.