The deepening territorial rows between Asian countries over swathes of the South and East China seas are unlikely to escalate into military conflicts, but the occurrence of an “unexpected accident” cannot be completely ruled out, according to a Ministry of National Defense report that is to be presented at the legislature today.
North Korea’s threat that it would scrap the 1953 Korean War armistice has added more tension to a region plagued by bitter sovereignty spats, but most claimant countries of disputed territories are still seeking to defuse the rows through diplomatic channels, making the possibility of a military conflict in the area unlikely, the report said.
However, the report, which is to be presented to the legislature’s Foreign and National Defense Committee today by Minister of National Defense Kao Hua-chu (高華柱), does not rule out the possibility of an “accident.”
Following China’s announcement last week that it would increase its defense spending to more than 700 billion yuan (US$112 billion), the report said that Taipei would continue its efforts to procure advanced weapons to augment its military capabilities, given that Beijing has yet to say it will not use force should Taiwan seek independence.
The report added that China’s military modernization was targeted primarily at Taiwan and that Beijing was striving to increase its combat capabilities to a level sufficient to “prevent Taiwanese independence and promote [cross-strait] unification” by 2020.
Singling out recent espionage cases involving high-ranking Taiwanese military officers co-opted by China to supply military intelligence, the report said that a handful of Taiwanese military personnel had given in to China’s threats and bribes.
“To counter this, the ministry has intensified an internal control mechanism to root out espionage and successfully solved several espionage cases based on information provided voluntarily by some military officers, signaling an improvement in the ministry’s intelligence security,” the report said.
Turning to the recently implemented all-volunteer military system that took effect on Jan. 1 — which permits male citizens born after 1994 to receive just four months of military training — the report said the military expected to enrol 16,766 servicemen this year, while 4,796 college students had opted to undergo two-stage training during the summer vacation instead.
The report said that while the ministry had met 72 percent of its recruitment goal last year, there was still room for improvement in the voluntary recruitment system.
The ministry is stepping up recruitment efforts and expects that 161,000 full-time soldiers will enlist voluntarily this year, the report added.
On the number of women in the military, the report said the ministry expected 3,058 female soldiers to enroll this year, up from 1,528 last year, accounting for approximately 8.6 percent of the military’s overall enrollment goal this year.