China defended its rules on overseas weapons sales Monday following the release of a report ranking the country fifth in global arms exports.
All Chinese arms sales to foreign countries must adhere strictly to domestic laws as well as U.N. guidelines and other international rules, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said at a regularly scheduled news conference.
Such sales have to be justified by the legitimate needs of the recipient and must not harm peace, security or stability, either within the country or in the region or world, Hong said.
"China always takes a responsible and cautious attitude toward arms exports," Hong said.
Sweden's Stockholm International Peace Research Institute reported Monday that China had overtaken Britain as the world's fifth-largest arms exporter over the five-year period from 2008 to 2012. China had a 5 percent share of global arms exports, up from 2 percent but still far behind leader the United States, with 30 percent, Russia with 26, Germany with 7 percent, and France with six, said the institute, known by its initials, SIPRI.
The volume of Chinese arms exports had risen by 162 percent over the previous five-year period, with sales to close ally Pakistan accounting for much of the growth, the report said.
"China's rise has been driven primarily by large-scale arms acquisitions by Pakistan," the director of SIPRI's Arms Transfers Program Paul Holtom was quoted as saying in a news release. Beyond those sales, other recent deals "indicate that China is establishing itself as a significant arms supplier to a growing number of important recipient states," Holtom said.
China has in recent years gone from importing large amounts of sophisticated Russian weaponry to competing with its former supplier for overseas markets. China competes mainly on price, with relatively simple and inexpensive items such as naval corvettes, rocket systems, and the JF-17 Thunder multi-role combat aircraft jointly developed with Pakistan's air force.