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Taiwan warns of ‘severe threat,’ plans U.S. $9 billion boost in arms purchases


Taiwan has proposed extra defense spending of nearly U.S. $9 billion over the next five years, including on new missiles, as it warned in mid-September 2021 of an urgent need to upgrade weapons in the face of a “severe threat” from neighboring China.

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen has made modernizing the Armed Forces — well-armed but dwarfed by China’s — and increasing defense spending a priority, especially as Beijing ramps up military and diplomatic pressure against the self-governed island it claims as “sacred” Chinese territory.

The new money, which comes on top of planned military spending of nearly U.S. $17 billion for 2022, needs to be approved by parliament where Tsai’s ruling party has a large majority, meaning its passage should be smooth.

Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense said China’s military strength had grown rapidly, and it had continued to invest heavily in defense. “In the face of severe threats from the enemy, the nation’s military is actively engaged in military building and preparation work, and it is urgent to obtain mature and rapid mass production weapons and equipment in a short period of time,” the ministry said in a statement.

Deputy Defense Minister Wang Shin-lung told reporters the new arms would be made domestically, as Taiwan boosts its production prowess, though the United States will probably remain an important provider of parts and technology.

Taiwan has been keen to demonstrate that it can defend itself, especially amid questions about whether the U.S. would come to its aid if the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) ordered an attack.

“Only if we ensure our security and show determination will the international community think well of us,” Taiwan Cabinet spokesman Lo Ping-cheng said. “Others will only help us if we help ourselves.”

The additional cash will likely be well received in Washington, which has been pushing Taiwan to modernize its military to make it more mobile so it can become a “porcupine,” hard for the CCP to attack.

Ingrid Larson, one of Washington’s unofficial representatives for Taiwan, stressed there was “a real and urgent need” for Taiwan to pursue defense reforms.

“As allies and partners in the region and around the globe increasingly push back on China’s aggressive action, it is important that Taiwan remain committed to the changes that only it can make for itself,” she told the Center for a New American Security think tank. “Taiwan must build as strong a deterrent as possible and as quickly as possible. Taiwan needs truly asymmetric capability, and a strong reserve force. Asymmetry means systems which are mobile, survivable and lethal.”

Larson is managing director of the Washington office of the American Institute in Taiwan, which handles U.S. relations with Taiwan in the absence of formal diplomatic links.

Taiwan aims to buy cruise missiles and warships, among other weapons, with the additional money, the Defense Ministry said. Taiwan has been testing new, long-range missiles off its southern and eastern coasts, and while it has not given details, diplomats and experts have said they are likely capable of hitting targets far inside China.

Taiwan has already put into service a new class of stealth warship, which it calls an “aircraft carrier killer” due to its missile complement and is developing  submarines. The announcement came as Taiwan was in the middle of its annual Han Kuang military drills, which included fending off a simulated invasion by firing artillery out to sea from a beach on its southern coast. (Pictured: Taiwan Soldiers prepare for an anti-invasion drill during the annual Han Kuang military drills in Tainan, Taiwan, in mid-September 2021.)



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