Low spending on national defense as well as cuts in projected weapons acquisition, are signs that the armed forces are moving away from a combat-oriented to a relief-oriented military role and that detente in the Taiwan Strait is “unilateral,” critics of President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration have said.
During the presidential campaign in 2008, Ma vowed to bring spending on national defense to 3 percent of GDP, a pledge that he has not met in his four years in office. The proposed national defense budget for next year has been set at NT$314.15 billion (US$10.59 billion), lower than the NT$317.2 billion for this year.
China, meanwhile, has increased its military spending by double digits for most of the past decade, opposition lawmakers said, adding that this highlighted ignorance about the true nature of the Chinese threat on the part of the Ma administration.
Photo: Liu Hsin-de, Taipei Times
This year, China’s declared military budget will rise 11.2 percent to 670.27 billion yuan (US$106.41 billion), a figure that the Pentagon and military analysts argue does not reveal actual levels.
Beyond a failure to meet the target defense spending, appropriations for next year also indicate a shift away from combat readiness to operations other than war, predominantly relief operations, reflecting Ma’s 2009 announcement that natural catastrophes were now Taiwan’s “No. 1 enemy.”
The Chinese-language United Daily News reported on Sunday that initial plans by the army to procure 57 domestically produced Ray Ting-2000 (“Thunder 2000”) multiple rocket launchers for a total of NT$14.45 billion had been slashed by one-quarter in next year’s budget. According to the report, the Ministry of National Defense ordered in July last year that production be dropped to 43 launch vehicles, which are to be divided into three battalions. The budget for the acquisition has reportedly been cut to NT$13.22 billion.
Meanwhile, the ministry has set aside NT$860 million for eight new projects, of which more than half are to meet non-combat needs. Among the earmarked funds, NT$430 million has been set aside to purchase 73 excavators and loaders and NT$45 million to buy 128 rubber rafts.
The army said the purchases were to “strengthen disaster prevention and rescue capabilities and to expand the army’s capability to speedily repair roads and dredge waterways and reservoirs.”
Opposition lawmakers commenting on next year’s defense budget said appropriations failed to ensure the nation had the means to guarantee its defenses.
“The Ma administration has continually scaled back its military spending even though China’s threat to Taiwan has continued to rise over the past few years,” Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴) was quoted as saying at the weekend.
Despite the relative calm in the Taiwan Strait since Ma’s election, Hsiao said the lack of reciprocity was impossible to ignore.
“The detente is just unilateral,” she said, pointing to the 1,600 ballistic and cruise missiles China has aimed at Taiwan — 200 more than last year, according to a report by the ministry on the People’s Liberation Army that was submitted to the legislature last week.
Additional reporting by AFP and Jake Chung
LIABILITIES MULLED: New Taipei City Mayor Hou You-yi said Taipei would find out if the firm was legally registered, the guide was licensed and the weather was assessed The assets of Tian Da Local Nature Co are to be frozen after at least four people died after falling into the Beishi River (北勢溪) on an outing the company had organized on Saturday, the Taipei City Government said yesterday. Six people — two adults and four children — were washed away by a flash flood on the river in New Taipei City’s Hubaotan (虎豹潭) area. They were participating in a Nature Joy Camp outdoor activity with a group of 16 adults and 15 children led by a guide surnamed Su (蘇). As of 4:30pm yesterday, four of the missing had been
Taiwanese worked more hours than people in all but three other countries in the world last year, Ministry of Labor data showed. Singapore placed first in average hours worked among the 40 economies surveyed, with an average of 2,288 hours per worker last year, the data showed. The city-state was followed by Colombia with 2,172 hours — based on 2019 data — and Mexico with 2,124 hours, it showed. Taiwan came in fourth, with 2,021 hours, it showed. South Korean workers clocked the third-most hours in Asia, with 1,908 hours, followed by Japan with 1,598 hours, it showed. However, compared with 2019, the survey found
The US 7th Fleet yesterday confirmed that a US Navy ship transited the Taiwan Strait on Thursday and Friday. “The Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Dewey [DDG 105] conducted a Taiwan Strait transit in cooperation with Royal Canadian Navy [RCN] Halifax-class frigate, HMCS Winnipeg, October 14-15, 2021,” the US 7th Fleet said in a statement. “Dewey’s and Winnipeg’s transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the commitment of the United States and our allies and partners to a free and open Indo-Pacific. Cooperation like this represents the centerpiece of our approach to a secure and prosperous region,” it added. The transit marked the
‘COUNTERPRODUCTIVE’: The German, French and Singaporean missions said that Taiwan’s COVID-19 restrictions are hindering local projects and business operations Several foreign missions in Taiwan have urged the government to ease its strict COVID-19 border controls, which they say are hurting in-person exchanges and business operations. The missions made the appeal in response to media inquiries on how the border controls have affected their respective countries’ exchanges with Taiwan, amid growing concerns voiced privately by Taiwan-based foreign offices and businesses regarding the restrictions. Taiwan has maintained strict entry requirements since March last year, generally prohibiting most arrivals except for citizens and foreign residents, while it has required those who enter the country to undergo a stringent 14-day quarantine. Although the rules have been