Wed, Mar 07, 2018 - Page 1 News List

Taiwan not interested in arms race: defense ministry

By Johnson Lai  /  AP, TAIPEI

Tanks fire shells into the sea during the 33rd Han Kuang military exercise in Penghu County on May 26 last year.

Photo: Fang Pin-chao, Taipei Times

Taiwan is to look to its domestic arms industry as well as foreign suppliers to respond to China’s continuing military buildup, but has no interest in engaging in an arms race with its cross-strait rival, the Ministry of National Defense said yesterday.

The remarks from ministry spokesman Chen Chung-ji (陳中吉) came a day after China announced an 8.1 percent rise in its military budget for this year to 1.1 trillion yuan (US$173 billion), the world’s second-largest after the US.

“Taiwan has no intention of getting involved in an arms race with China, or with neighboring countries,” Chen told reporters at a briefing.

“However, we expect to strengthen our capabilities in self-developing arms, including locally built vessels and aircraft, or even information and communication warfare,” Chen said.

Such foreign and domestic weapons systems aimed to “satisfy the needs of defensive warfare, and assure the security of Taiwan, as well as to maintain regional stability and peace,” Chen said.

Under President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), Taiwan has sought to reinvigorate its domestic arms industry, including in building trainer aircraft and possibly ships and submarines.

With the world’s largest standing military of between 2 million and 2.3 million members, China is preparing to launch its second aircraft carrier while integrating stealth fighters into its air force and fielding an array of advanced missiles able to attack air and sea targets at vast distances.

Taiwan’s armed forces are far smaller, although it has conscription and a pool of reserves nearly 3 million strong. Its commanders have sought to capitalize on the physical barrier posed by the Taiwan Strait to fend off a possible Chinese attack.

As part of a pressure campaign against Tsai, China has sent bombers and fighter planes to fly around Taiwan and sailed its sole operating aircraft carrier through the Strait with its battle group.

China’s missile arsenal is also considered a key component in any assault, able to overwhelm Taiwan’s air defenses by sheer force of numbers.

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