Taiwan Unveils Wishlist for Boosted Defense Spending to Match Beijing
The Taiwanese government has revealed their plans to initiate long-term increases in defense spending aimed at acquiring advanced weapons systems as a deterrent to mainland aggression. Tensions between Beijing and Taipei have continued to mount since relations broke down in 2016.
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen has made the national defense of Taiwan a centerpiece of her policy, recommending a hybrid approach of both domestically constructed and US-purchased weapons. Her intention is to build a defensive Taiwanese military that could inflict unacceptable losses on superior mainland forces in the case of armed conflict between the two Chinas.
Two defense officials told Reuters that Taipei is in the process of formulating defense spending plans through 2025. By then, the officials claimed Taiwan's annual military spending will have increased at least 20 percent if not more. That's an increase from about $10.8 billion to $12.9 billion in annual spending.
"The Tsai administration is seeking to undo years of defense spending cuts," the officials wrote, adding that Taiwan's healthy economic growth allowed it to foot the bill.
"The additional funds will target enhancements in asymmetrical defense strategies in the short-term and advanced weapons and equipment either domestically produced or through defense procurements in the long-term."
Civilian leaders met with military leaders to determine where the new investments will be allocated. Military leaders have pushed for better training of Taiwanese forces as well as acquisitions of new missiles, drones, electronic warfare suites, fighter aircraft and ballistic missile defense systems.
The Ministry of National Defense has also added information security, upgraded Patriot missiles, new F-16A/B jet fighters and indigenously built training planes to their wishlist. They also want to improve Taiwan's arsenal of mobile missile launchers and either build or acquire new ballistic missiles.
Much of these weapons would come from Taiwan's sole foreign arms supplier: the United States. Taiwan is a top buyer of US armaments, having purchased more than $60 billion worth of Washington's weapons in the last 25 years.
Tsai has frequently suggested that she wants to bolster ties with Washington and purchase more American weapons, often incensing China in the process. However, she has insisted the weapons will only be for self-defense and would not be used to provoke Beijing.
Hostilities between China and Taiwan flared after the 2016 election victory of Tsai and her Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) ended several years of detente. Unlike her immediate predecessor, Tsai has been unwilling to publicly endorse the 1992 Consensus, a cross-strait agreement affirming that there is only one China. Naturally, Beijing and Taipei disagree on which of their governments is the legitimate one, as they have since communist forces founded the People's Republic in 1949.
The administration of US President Donald Trump has seen a strengthening of ties between the US and Taiwan, often a sticking point in Washington-Beijing relations. Trump was the first president since Jimmy Carter to directly speak with the Taiwanese president and in September the US Congress passed the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act which authorized naval cooperation between the US and Taiwanese militaries.
Beijing has also been ramping up their military spending since the mid-2000's. In March 2017, they announced that defense spending would be increased 7 percent in 2017, an increase of $11.1 billion.