Taiwan Security Policy
Taiwan unveiled a report on its new defense strategy 16 March 2017, pledging to strengthen its defense capabilities to counter China's growing military. Authorities do a defense review every four years and this cycle's was presented to parliament on Thursday. It is the first such report since President Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party was sworn in May 2016.
The report said China has not abandoned the possibility of using force against Taiwan. It says China has been increasing its defense spending to rapidly modernize its equipment. The report added China already had the capability to blockade Taiwan and take control of outlying islands.
The report pledged to introduce new armaments, including a new type of stealth fighter jet that can take off and land vertically. The report had a program to develop Taiwan's defense industry. It aims to push the construction of domestically-produced submarines and other hardware as part of an effort to spur the economy. The report noted China maintains an advantage in military preparedness and is stepping up military threats using fighter planes and vessels. The document was evidence that Tsai's administration will quickly review Taiwan's defense strategy.
President Tsai Ing-wen said 04 July 2016 that since she took office on May 20, she has been addressing issues related to the military, including strategic guidance, resource priorities, the size of the armed forces, and the weaponry and equipment needed. She said she plans to work on reform of the military culture to stamp out inefficiency and window dressing so that those officers and soldiers who want to do their jobs properly will no longer be frustrated. "Only reforms can bring dignity, she said. "Only with discipline can reforms be fully implemented." The president also said she will try to deal with the system that puts up a barrier between military careers and other jobs in the society, to allow military personnel to work as professionals after they leave the force.
Despite easing tension across the Taiwan Strait, the PRC's has insisted on the path of military preparation against Taiwan, and has not renounced the use of force against Taiwan. Hence, the PRC remains the greatest threat to Taiwan's national security. Furthermore, East Asia has been a region of uncertainty over the past year due to disputes over sovereignty and maritime rights, as well as the confrontation in the Korean Peninsula.
In November 2012, Mainland China declared at its 18th Party Congress that it would continue “expanding and intensifying military preparedness” and “building strong national defense and powerful armed forces that are commensurate with China’s international standing,” demonstrating the fact that the PLA military threats to the ROC have not decreased.
The disputes over Diaoyutai and islands in the South China Sea bear the most significant implications for Taiwan's national security. To safeguard national security, the ROC Armed Forces are dedicated to building defensive capabilities. An adequate level of defense budget will be allocated to step up force training and acquire advanced weapon systems. Furthermore, in coordination with the government's overall policy planning, the ROC Armed Forces will continue to strengthen maritime patrol capabilities, and collaborate with the coast guards to defend our sovereignty and maritime rights and interests.
Before 2000, Taiwan's top defense strategy against China was "effective deterrence and resolute defense." In case of war, the plan was to "detain the enemy on the opposite shore, fight the enemy at sea, and destroy the enemy if they land." The Taiwan Strait and the coast of Taiwan itself were considered the main battlefield. This was a passive attitude to defense. In the event of conflict, the battlefield would be the Taiwan Strait, and the fight would extend to Taiwan's coast and into the hinterland.
The Ministry of National Defense (MND) publishes a National Defense Report biennially to inform the public of the government’s defense policies and actions. In addition, a 2008 amendment to the National Defense Act requires the MND to submit a Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) to the Legislative Yuan (Legislature) within 10 months after the start of each presidential term.
During the presidential elections in 2000, Democratic Progressive Party presidential candidate Chen Shui-bian favored the idea of "offshore engagement" as part of defense strategy. He hoped this would ensure that any armed conflict would not ravage the country. At the time, a lot of people laughed: How could Taiwan be powerful enough to engage China "offshore?"
Abiding by the Article 31 of the National Defense Act, the Ministry of National Defense (MND) released the 2013 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) and submitted the report to Foreign and National Defense Committee in Legislative Yuan on March 11. The publication of the QDR required the MND to conduct a comprehensive review of defense development and major defense programs. With the QDR, the MND embodied the President’s national defense ideas in concrete policies and strategic plans. The QDR is therefore the uppermost guidance for policy development, force buildup and combat readiness. Additionally, the QDR serves as a basis for the Legislative Yuan to supervise the implementation result and effectiveness of various defense policies.
On October 1, 2009, the Ministry of National Defense issued “the Mid-term Administrative Program of the Ministry of National Defense, 2010-2013” based on the demands of the Executive Yuan and the politics of the MND. It regulated eight key strategic objectives including promoting mercenary system, remolding mental capabilities, enhancing allied cooperation, optimizing the military caretaking, perfecting the response to the crisis management, perfecting the armament mechanism, establishing new picked military, and fostering high-quality military. These are incorporated with four mutual objectives proclaimed by the Executive Yuan, which are developing the research capacity, promoting assets benefits and disposing government resource properly, promoting the quality of the human resource and management efficiency, and perfecting the organization reconstructing scheme of the Executive Yuan.
The MND released the first QDR in 2009. The 2013 QDR demonstrated a routine and institutionalized process of defense review on quadrennial basis. The MND carried out the President’s strategic concepts, reviews current defense policies, integrates suggestions from diverse fields, reflects public expectation, lays out future policy development and force buildup directions in the QDR. Moreover, bridging the MND with Legislative Yuan, the QDR also advocated dialogues and enhanced legislators’ support for defense affairs. This highlighted the importance of the QDR in regard to military preparation, defense transformation and all-out defense consolidation.
The framework of the QDR incorporated the President’s concept of “three legs of national security,” national development vision of “golden decade,” and the strategic guidance of “conquer the enemy by strategy.” The QDR aimed to evoke the public’s defense awareness and anticipate external and internal security environment and defense challenges.
With available financial resources and “innovative/asymmetrical” concept, and in hope of building an elite force with high quality, efficiency, morale, and capabilities, the MND declared in the QDR the directions of force buildup and defense transformation for the next four years to realize the Armed Forces’ missions of safeguarding national security, protecting the public’s rights and promoting regional peace and stability.
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