Alan Garcia, the president of Peru, defended his government's decision to purchase Chinese tanks and Brazilian fighter planes just a few weeks after accusing Chile of an arms race and proposing an initiative to limit military expenditure in the region.
Garcia who presented his anti arms initiative to the Union of South American Nations, UNASUR, argued that the purchase of Chinese tanks is not incoherent with his country's policy, since it is only geared to replenish an obsolete military arsenal.
"This does not contradict our commitment to stop an arms race in the region because Peru last purchased Russian T 55 tanks back in the late sixties, and they needed upgrading, and it was decided to decommission them", said Garcia.
"We are compensating that with a dissuasive instrument because we want Peru to be defended," added the Peruvian president.
Peru showed five Chinese built MBT-2000 during a recent military parade. The Garcia administration has said the operation is government to government but refused to reveal the number of units involved.
"Buying Chinese tanks was the right decision: they have an attractive price for Peru and modern technology. Thanks to President Hu Jintao we've managed a significant drop not in the price but in the down-payment and installments," said Garcia.
Peruvian Prime Minister Javier Velasquez also insisted it was not an arms race: "it's about equipment replacement – not about entering an incessant arms race".
Peru said Super Tucano planes it is buying from Brazil's Embraer would be used to combat cocaine trafficking in remote parts of the Andes and Amazon jungle.
Peru has questioned military hardware purchases in the region and is particularly concerned with the huge investment in the Chilean Armed Forces.
Chile's armed forces have benefited from years of windfall copper earnings due to a law that entitles them to 10% of state copper giant Codelco's sales. The government has sent a bill to Congress that aims to scrap the Codelco payment.