Taiwan enhances, modernizes military amid increased PLAAF incursions
The Taiwan military has scrambled jets to intercept People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) planes more than twice as many times in 2020 compared to 2019, a sign that Taiwan faces increasing security challenges from the People’s Republic of China (PRC), according to Taiwan’s Defense Ministry.
In recent weeks, PLAAF fighter jets have crossed the midline of the Taiwan Strait, typically considered the official buffer between the democratic island and mainland China, and entered Taiwan’s southwestern air defense identification zone (ADIZ), Reuters reported. So far in 2020, Taiwan has scrambled its Air Force 4,132 times, an increase of 129%, according to Reuters. (Pictured: A Taiwan F-16V fighter jet lands on a Changhua highway used as an emergency runway during an exercise simulating a People’s Liberation Army invasion.)
The PRC “is trying to use unilateral military actions to change the security status quo in the Taiwan Strait, and at the same time is testing our response, increasing pressure on our air defenses and shrinking our space for activity,” a Taiwan report to parliament read, according to Reuters.
The drastic increase in ADIZ incursions has prompted Taiwan to consider increasing the frequency with which it calls up reservists, according to Taiwan’s Central News Agency (CNA). Doing so would improve the readiness of Taiwan’s combat forces should they need to be activated, CNA reported. Potential changes could require that reservists report every year for two weeks rather than every two years for five to seven days, according to CNA.
The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) outnumbers Taiwan’s military, but U.S. support for Taiwan continues to grow amid Taiwan’s tensions with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which considers Taiwan part of its territory under the CCP’s “One China” principle. Analysts say the U.S. support angers the CCP. The U.S. is also finalizing the sale of advanced weaponry to Taiwan to counter any perceived threat from the PLA in another sign of deepening Taiwan-U.S. ties that communist Chinese officials frown upon. The sale will include drones and accompanying equipment and program support estimated at U.S. $600 million plus anti-ship missiles, according to CNN.
In the meantime, Taiwan has remained busy readying troops through other aspects of a military modernization program overseen by Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen. The goal is to make Taiwan more agile and difficult to attack, Reuters reported.
“We are developing systems that are small, numerous, smart, stealthy, fast, mobile, low-cost, survivable, effective, easy to develop, maintain and preserve, and difficult to detect and counter,” Taiwan Vice Defense Minister Chang Guan-chung said, according to Reuters.
Chang applauded Taiwan’s enhanced cooperation with the U.S. and called for even more bilateral exchange to bolster Taiwan’s military modernization goals.