missiles are displayed at the Korean War Memorial Museum in Seoul
China becomes fifth-largest exporter of weapons REUTERS

China has replaced the UK as the world's fifth-largest exporter of arms, reaching to its highest rank since the end of the cold war, according to a Sweden-based think tank.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) said in a report that China's volume of weapons exports surged 162 percent between 2008 and 2012 from the previous five-year period. The country currently accounts for between 2-5 percent of the global arms trade.

The latest five-year period is the first in which the UK has not been in the top five since at least 1950, the earliest year covered by SIPRI data. China's entry into the top-five list, dominated by the US and Russia, also marks the first change in the composition in 20 years.

"China is establishing itself as a significant arms supplier to a growing number of important recipient states," said Paul Holtom, director of the Sipri Arms Transfers Programme.

"China's rise has been driven primarily by large-scale arms acquisitions by Pakistan," he added.

During 2008-12, Asia and Oceania received 74 percent of the volume of Chinese arms exports, while Africa received 13 percent.

Pakistan accounted for 55 percent of Chinese arms exports during the five-year period and the country is expected to remain the largest recipient of Chinese arms in the coming years. Other Chinese arms recipients include Algeria, Morocco and Venezuela.

China has also been the second-largest importer of arms in 2008-12, accounting for 6 percent of international arms imports during the period. With a 12 percent global share, India has been no. 1 in the top-five importers list, which include Pakistan, South Korea and Singapore.

China has boosted its domestic arms production after it was banned from western military imports following the crushed Tiananmen Square protests in 1989.

The global arms trade grew by 17 percent in 2008-12 over the previous period, according to the report, with the US and Russia holding market shares of 30 percent and 26 percent respectively. Germany and France came in at the third and fourth positions.

In crisis-hit Europe, arms imports declined by 20 percent in 2008-12. Britain was the largest arms importer in the continent, followed by Greece and Norway.