Boeing Bets on Maritime Equipment Demand to Drive Growth in Asia

Boeing Co., seeking to boost defense business in Asia, said it expects demand for naval systems to drive growth as countries in the region boost their military might.

“The awareness about the importance of protecting sea links and their own sovereign sea space is increasing in all the countries,” James Armington, Boeing’s vice president for East Asia-Pacific region, said in an interview in Singapore today. “We see significant opportunity in maritime products.”

Boeing is also in talks with many Asian nations to sell more of its P-8 and C17 transport aircraft as defense budgets in the U.S. and Europe shrink. Tensions between China and countries including Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam have escalated in recent months because of territorial disputes in both the East and South China Seas.

China is flexing its military muscle in Asia as it asserts claims to disputed territories and resources, while Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been trying to loosen restrictions on Japan’s Self-Defense Forces imposed by the country’s pacifist constitution.

China and Japan haven’t held a summit since Abe took office in December 2012. Protests broke out in China in late 2012 after Japan bought some of the disputed East China Sea islands, known as Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese, from a private owner. China in November set up an air defense zone in the area, demanding civil and military aircraft present flight plans before entering the space.

Rising Budgets

Asian countries from China to India are also increasing defense spending. India, the world’s biggest importer of weapons, said in February last year that defense expenditure will increase by 14 percent in the year ending in March.

China expanded military spending 10.7 percent to 740.6 billion yuan ($122 billion) in 2013, while Japan also plans a second straight rise in its defense budget.

Japan, South Korea and Singapore will remain the biggest defense market in East Asia-Pacific region, Armington said, adding that though he doesn’t see an arms race in Asia. Boeing is also working with Malaysia, whose fighter jets are getting “older and older,” the company’s Vice President Chris Raymond told reporters.

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