| 5 March 2024, Tuesday |

Taiwan plans $9 bln boost in arms spending, warns of ‘severe threat’

Taiwan proposed an additional T$240 billion ($8.69 billion) in defense spending over the next five years on Thursday, including new missiles, as it warned of an urgent need to update weapons in the face of a “serious danger” from big neighbor China.

President Tsai Ing-wen has prioritized modernizing Taiwan’s armed forces, which are well-equipped but outgunned by China’s, as well as raising defense budget, especially as Beijing increases military and diplomatic pressure on the island it claims as “sacred” Chinese territory.

The increased funds, which will be added to T$471.7 billion in budgeted military spending for 2022, will need to be approved by parliament, where Tsai’s ruling party has a huge majority, ensuring straightforward passage.

“The Chinese Communists have continued to invest heavily in national defense budgets, their military strength has grown rapidly, and they have frequently dispatched aircraft and ships to invade and harass our seas and airspace,” Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said after a weekly Cabinet meeting in a statement.

“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.”

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

Taiwan has been keen to demonstrate that it can defend itself, especially amid questions about whether the United States would come to its aid if China attacked.

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

The weapons Taiwan aims to buy with the money include cruise missiles and warships, the ministry added.

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 to be able to hit targets far into China.

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 China to attack.

Taiwan has already put into service a new class of highly agile stealth warships, which Taiwan refers to as an “aircraft carrier killer” due to its missile complement, and is developing its own submarines.

The announcement comes as Taiwan is in the middle of its annual Han Kuang military drills.

On Thursday, Taiwan’s army simulated fending off an invasion, firing artillery out to sea from a beach on its southern coast.

(This story corrected budget year in paragraph 3 to 2022 from 2020)

  • Reuters