China has eased ahead of Germany and France to become the world's number three arms exporter after the United States and Russia, a Stockholm-based think-tank said Monday.
The volume of the multi-billion dollar world arms trade rose 16 percent during the period 2010 to 2014 over the previous five years, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute added in its annual report.
The figures show that "the United States has taken a firm lead" with 31 percent of global exports of conventional weapons, SIPRI said, adding that Russia is second with 27 percent.
The next three arms exporters are far behind with about five percent each, and China is only slightly ahead of fourth-ranked Germany and fifth-ranked France.
Three Asian countries accounted for more than two-thirds of Chinese exports, with Pakistan buying 41 percent of the total, followed by Bangladesh and Myanmar. Beijing also had 18 client nations in Africa during the period.
Russia's top client was India -- the world's leading arms importer -- with 70 percent of its purchases coming from Russia.
The United States had the most diverse clientele. South Korea, its top client, accounted for only nine percent of total US business.
Among the top suppliers, China's sales were 143 percent the figure from the previous five years. Ukraine and Russia also saw surges in exports, while German and French exports declined.
The data reflects the volume of arms deliveries, not the financial value of the deals, SIPRI notes.
Among importers, India was far ahead of second- and third-placed Saudi Arabia and China, purchasing some 15 percent of the total volume compared with five percent each for the next two.
African arms imports shot up 45 percent in the period, SIPRI found. "Algeria was the largest arms importer in Africa, followed by Morocco, whose arms imports increased 11-fold," it said.
"Cameroon and Nigeria received arms from several states in order to fulfil their urgent demand for weapons to fight against the militant Islamist group Boko Haram," SIPRI added.
While the arms trade has been on the rise for the past decade, the volume remains about one-third below its post-war peak reached in the early 1980s.