Deputy Minister of National Defense Lee Hsi-ming (李喜明) has reiterated the need for Taiwan-US defense collaboration, while the US has encouraged more intensive collaboration and and called on Taipei to increase its defense budget and develop asymmetric capabilities against a Chinese threat.
Lee, who led Taiwan’s delegation to the annual US-Taiwan Defense Industry Conference in Williamsburg, Virginia, said in a keynote speech on Sunday that the cross-strait military balance is tilting dramatically and it is increasingly difficult to deter China using traditional means.
Due to limited foreign sources for arms acquisition, Taiwan has shifted its focus from securing military sales to developing an indigenous defense industry, with aerospace, shipbuilding and information security forming the core of the nation’s defense industry, which is expected to have an output value of US$12 billion.
Successful coproduction programs between Taiwan and the US include AT-3 trainer jets, CM-11 tanks, Cheng-Kong class frigates and FC-K-1A/B “Ching-kuo” Indigenous Defensive Fighter jets.
Taiwan is seeking a more active collaboration with the US, Lee said.
“We hope to work with the US on the technologies and equipment that are unavailable to Taiwan,” Lee said. “Taiwan’s government is making it a priority to bridge our two defense industries.”
It was the largest-ever Taiwanese participation in the annual convention, with representatives from 35 Taiwanese companies seeking opportunities to cooperate with their US counterparts, he said.
David Helvey, a senior adviser at the Office of the US Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs, on Monday proposed four strategies for Taiwan to improve military preparedness: prioritizing defense resourcing, prioritizing homeland defense, developing an elite force and investing in asymmetric capabilities.
“Taiwan’s defense budget has not kept pace with threat developments and should be increased,” Helvey said.
Without specifying what degree of budget increase is sufficient, Helvey said it is necessary for Taiwan’s military to be provided with the resources it requires to continue to modernize, recruit highly skilled personnel, develop indigenous solutions and train.
Taiwan should focus its defense resources on developing capabilities to defend Taiwan to deter and disrupt Chinese aggression, he said.
To this end, Taiwan has invested in sea mines, coastal defense artillery, land and sea-based mobile anti-ship cruise missiles, drones and fast attack boats, he said.
To develop an elite force that could help Taiwan withstand cyber, missile and air attacks, Taipei has to come up with the right mix of volunteers and conscripts and rethink the roles of the reserves, he said.
“As the US knows from its own experience, developing and maintaining an effective and combat-capable all-volunteer force is an expensive, as well as time-consuming, choice,” he said.
Taiwan has to build asymmetric capabilities to increase survivability, such as developing coastal defense cruise missiles, mobile air defense, mines and coastal defense submarines.
Taiwan is the US’ largest security cooperation partner in Asia, and the US will continue to work with Taiwan in areas beyond arms sales, including the development of joint doctrine, improving service interoperability and developing a professional noncommissioned officer corps, Helvey said.
“However, the US government does not own much of the technology Taiwan seeks for its domestic industry, necessitating close cooperation between Taiwan and US defense contractors to establish new relationships and new lines of collaboration,” he said.
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