EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (June 12, 2019) B-52 out of EDW carries ARRW IMV (AGM-183A) asset for its first captive carry flight over Edwards Air Force Base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Christopher Okula)

Global spending on defence rose by four percent in 2019, the largest growth in 10 years, led by big increases from the US and China, a study said Friday.

Beijing’s military modernization program — which includes developing new hard-to-detect hypersonic missiles — is alarming Washington and helping drive US defence spending, the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) said.

The IISS’s annual “Military Balance” report said the increase alone in US spending from 2018 to 2019 — $53.4 billion — was almost as big as Britain’s entire defence budget.

Both China and the US increased spending by 6.6 percent, the report said, while Europe — driven by ongoing concerns about Russia — stepped up by 4.2 percent.

But this growth only brought European defence spending back to levels seen in 2008, before the global financial crisis saw budgets slashed.

European NATO members have been seeking to increase spending to placate President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly accused them of freeloading on the US.

Trump has railed at European allies, particularly Germany, for not living up to a 2014 NATO pledge to spend two percent of GDP on defence.

The mercurial president’s anger over spending has fueled concern about his commitment to the transatlantic alliance, culminating in an explosive 2018 summit where he launched a blistering public attack on Germany in a televised meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel.