- Taiwan extends military service from 4 months to 1 year
- President cites growing threat from China
- President says he would choose democracy over dictatorship
- China held massive air force drills near Taiwan on Sunday
TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen said on Thursday that democratically-ruled Taiwan would face growing threats from its giant neighbor China, ending compulsory military service from 2024. He said it would be extended from months to a year.
The well-publicized move saw China mounting military, diplomatic and economic pressure on Taiwan to assert its sovereignty, with Chinese air forces carrying out missions near the island almost daily for the past three years. It arose from the fact that
Tsai said Taiwan wants peace but needs to be able to defend itself.
“As long as Taiwan is strong enough, it will become the home of democracy and freedom around the world, not a battlefield,” Tsai said at a press conference. “Incredibly difficult.”
The current military system, including reservist training, is inefficient in dealing with China’s growing military threat, especially if China launches a rapid attack on the island, Tsai said. added.
“Taiwan wants to tell the world that between democracy and dictatorship, we firmly believe in democracy. Between war and peace, we insist on peace. Show courage and determination.”
Conscripts undergo more rigorous training, including shooting exercises, combat instruction used by the U.S. military, and the operation of more powerful weapons such as the Stinger anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles, Tsai said.
Taiwan has complained this year of delays in deliveries of US weapons, including the Stinger, but Tsai said the situation is improving after talks with the US.
Tsai’s security team, which includes senior defense ministry and National Security Council officials, has been reviewing Taiwan’s military system since 2020, an official briefed on the matter told Reuters.
Taipei, which rejects Beijing’s sovereignty claim to Taiwan, said on Monday that 43 Chinese planes crossed an unofficial buffer zone between the two sides, marking the largest-ever PLA Air Force strike into the island’s air defense identification zone. reported an intrusion.
China also held military exercises near Taiwan in August after U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taipei.
China ‘great concern’
The Taiwanese government says only the people of Taiwan can decide their future.
“China’s various unilateral actions are of great concern to regional security,” said a senior official who participated in high-level security discussions.
The defense ministry said at the same press conference that conscripts would be tasked with protecting critical infrastructure and would allow regular forces to respond more quickly in the event of an attempted invasion by China.
Chieh Chung, a researcher at the National Policy Foundation, a Taipei-based think tank, said the extension would add 60,000 to 70,000 personnel annually from 2027 onwards to its current strong professional force of 165,000. We estimate that it may be
But even after the extension, it remains shorter than the 18 months mandated in South Korea in the face of a hostile, nuclear-armed North Korea.
Tsai oversees an extensive modernization program and champions the idea of ”asymmetric warfare” that would make the island’s military more mobile, nimble and harder to strike.
Although the United States has been pressuring Taiwan to modernize its military like an agile and hard-to-attack “porcupine,” Tsai said there was no pressure from Washington for these reforms.
Taiwan is slowly transitioning from a conscripted army to a specialized force dominated by volunteers, but China’s growing claims to islands it claims to be its own and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have put it at risk. Debate rages on how to bolster defenses.Russia calls war in Ukraine a “special operation.”
Tsai said she learned “a few things” from the war, incorporated it into Taiwan’s defense reforms, and saw Ukraine’s ability to hold off a larger Russian force.
This gave the international community time to provide necessary assistance to Ukraine, she added.
The former Taiwanese government, under the ruling Democratic Progressive Party and the largest opposition Kuomintang, has suspended men’s compulsory service for two years to appeal to younger voters as tensions between Taipei and Beijing eased. This has been shortened to four months.
Reuters reported that military training in Taiwan has deteriorated, especially for conscripts and reservists.
By Ben Blanchard.Edited by Jerry Doyle, Edmund Klaman, Simon Cameron Moore
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