10. South Korea
> Military expenditure: $36.7 billion
> Pct. change military expenditure, 2005-2014: 34.1%
> Expenditure as pct. of GDP: 2.6%
> Military expenditure per capita: $741
South Korea, formally the Republic of Korea, increased its military spending by $757 million from 2013 to 2014. The increase made South Korea the only nation advancing into the ranks of the 10 countries spending the most on the military, displacing Brazil. Military service is compulsory for all South Koreans 20 to 30 years old who have completed middle school. South Korea had a standing army of 659,500 active personnel in 2013. South Korea, an Asian nation roughly the size of Pennsylvania is on constant alert because of tensions with neighboring North Korea, officially the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. On a recent visit to South Korea, U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter was greeted with news that North Korea had fired two surface-to-air missiles despite a United Nations ban on such actions. Secretary Carter said the launch was an illustration of continuing tension in the region.
> Military expenditure: $45.8 billion
> Pct. change military expenditure, 2005-2014: -3.7%
> Expenditure as pct. of GDP: 1.0%
> Military expenditure per capita: $360
The 3.7% decrease in Japan’s military spending since 2005 may be about to change. The Japanese government, in January 2015, approved the nation’s largest military budget since World War II despite the country’s still struggling economy. Japan’s military spending dropped 3.7% from fourth highest in 2005 but the significant increase in spending could reverse this trend. Japan’s military spending was just 1.0% of its GDP, the lowest share of any of the 10 countries with the highest levels of military spending. The Asian island nation almost the size of California had a 259,800 all-volunteer military open to those 18 and over. Japan recently began to change its pacifist policy instituted after WWII. The increase in the military budget may be due to rising tensions with China over territories in the East China Sea.
> Military expenditure: $46.5 billion
> Pct. change military expenditure, 2005-2014: -0.8%
> Expenditure as pct. of GDP: 1.2%
> Military expenditure per capita: $562
Germany’s military spending fell for the second straight year in 2014. It has slipped 0.8% since 2005. The European nation plays a key role in the defense of the continent. Since World War II, Germany has maintained a relatively passive role in global military affairs. It now has an all-volunteer army after conscription ended in July 2011. Germany had an army of 181,500 active personnel in 2013. Military spending amounted to just 1.2% of total GDP in Germany, the second lowest share of the 10 countries with the highest levels of military spending. Boasting one of the world’s strongest economies, Germany could afford to spend more. The country was one of a few wealthy nations not to meet NATO’s recommended 2% of GDP military expenditure. Stil, Germany has taken steps to support its nearby allies. In February 2015, Germany’s Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen visited former Soviet bloc members Estonia and Latvia as a show of support after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014.