Since the Democratic Progressive Party won the presidency in 2016, military exchanges between Taiwan and the US have intensified.
The US Congress on Monday last week passed the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2019 and a US Department of State spokesperson has said that US President Donald Trump’s administration is resolved to fully implement the provisions of the Taiwan Relations Act, which makes as many US arms and services available to Taiwan as are necessary for mounting an adequate defense.
“We encourage Taiwan to increase its defense budget,” the spokesperson added.
Part of President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) campaign platform during the 2016 presidential election was a pledge to the public that the annual defense budget would be raised to 3 percent of GDP, but the past two years’ budgets only accounted for about 1.84 percent of GDP — not even 2 percent.
A few days ago, local media reported that the military had amended the defense plan for an invasion from across the Taiwan Strait, and that the revised plan did not rely on the US to provide any soldiers, but assumed that Taiwan would be on its own in resolving a military conflict with China.
In an interview on Monday last week, Tsai said that Taiwan’s national defense and its defense capabilities are solely the nation’s responsibility.
Regardless of whether the US would intervene in a conflict in the Taiwan Strait, the government must continue to invest in asymmetrical warfare, strengthen its missile defenses and develop submarines to defend Taiwan’s coastline.
However, raising the national defense budget to 3 percent of GDP might be the most important way for Taiwan to show the international community that it is determined to oppose the enemy and defend itself.
During former president Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) time in office, the government relied on relaxed tensions across the Taiwan Strait, disregarding rapid developments in the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and ignoring the number of Chinese missiles aimed at Taiwan.
For six consecutive years, the defense budget failed to reach 3 percent of GDP, with the promised defense strategy drawing domestic criticism when it failed.
During Ma’s final year in office, the defense budget only reached about 2 percent, causing the US government to question Taiwan’s determination to defend itself.
Over the past year, the PLA has continually expanded its air and sea exercises in the Strait and throughout the region, frequently conducting “patrols” around Taiwan, a practice that has quickly turned into an established routine.
Meanwhile, the diplomatic methods that Beijing is using to shrink Taiwan’s space in the international community are becoming increasingly diversified.
These developments show that the nation is facing a serious threat to its national security. How long can the Tsai administration wait before coming up with a viable strategy to counter China’s moves?
Yao Chung-yuan is former deputy director of the Ministry of National Defense’s Strategic Planning Department and an adjunct university professor.
Translated by Perry Svensson
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