Taiwan plans record defense spending amid rising tension with China

Kyodo News

Posted at Aug 14 2020 02:26 AM

TAIPEI - Taiwan's Cabinet approved on Thursday a record-high military expenditure for next year as an increasingly assertive China increases its threat against the self-ruled island.

The Executive Yuan, or Cabinet, approved the Defense Ministry's requested budget of NT$366.8 billion ($12 billion) for next year, an increase of NT$15.6 billion over the previous year, or 4.44 percent.

Military spending broke the NT$300 billion mark in 2012, with last year reaching the highest amount of NT$324 billion.

If the NT$29 billion special budget earmarked for the new fighter aircraft is factored in, the overall budget for next year is NT$453.4 billion, accounting for 2.36 percent of the gross national product.

The government's budget proposal still has to be approved by the legislature.

The Defense Ministry said that in addition to funding the fundamentals such as personnel expenditures, it plans to dedicate more financial resources to operational maintenance and military investment, with the focus on strengthening the main combat equipment and asymmetric combat capability "in the face of the dynamics played out across the Taiwan Strait and in the region."

It is the policy of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party government to increase military spending.

President Tsai Ing-wen promised in October 2017 to boost future military spending by 2 percent from the previous year annually after the US government called on Taipei to invest more in the island's self-defense. Defense spending could increase as much as 3 percent if there are additional arms purchases.

Instead of engaging in an arms race with Beijing, the Tsai administration in 2017 adopted a new approach to national defense, called the overall defense concept. If effectively implemented, experts said the new concept could give Taiwan a fighting chance of preventing China from being able to take it by force.

The new defense concept employs an asymmetric defense strategy, or warfare involving forces of unequal capabilities, under the military strategy of "multi-domain battle concept."

The idea is to not to compete with China's large military head on, but to maximize Taiwan's defense advantages and focus on the greatest threats, while surviving long enough for third-party intervention.

Taiwan and China have been governed separately since they split during the civil war in 1949. Beijing, which regards Taiwan as a renegade province, has since then endeavored to bring the self-ruled island into its fold, by force if necessary.