The government should reinstate one year of mandatory military service for men to defend Taiwan from a Chinese attack, New Power Party (NPP) legislators said yesterday, adding that women should receive some sort of military training as well.
NPP legislators Chiu Hsien-chih (邱顯智) and Claire Wang (王琬諭) called for a comprehensive change to the military service system after 600 reservists on Saturday returned to barracks for what was described by the local media as the “toughest educational mobilization” of military reserves in the nation’s history: two weeks of intensive training focusing on field exercises and shooting drills.
“The Russian invasion of Ukraine has strengthened our determination to defend Taiwan, but we are far from ready,” Chiu told a news conference in Taipei as the war entered its 12th day.
Photo: Fang Pin-chao, Taipei Times
The national defense system has too many unaddressed issues, from defensive war strategies, conscription and military training to the mobilization and training of civilians, he said, adding that Taiwan would not be able to deter Chinese aggression with its “muddling along” attitude.
Taiwan in 2018 started its transition to a voluntary military system, although all eligible men are still obligated to undergo four months of military training, which was shortened from one year.
Although the Ministry of National Defense has listed 2 million people in its military reserve database, it would mainly draft those who voluntarily enlisted in the military, Chiu said.
The current military system has led to an insufficient number of standing troops and limited sources for recruits, he said.
By 2039, the number of recruitable men in Taiwan would have fallen to 56,000, he said, citing a study by the Organic Laws and Statutes Bureau.
The decline in the number of recruits would derail the ministry’s plan to build a military reserve composed mainly of volunteers, Chiu said.
Four months of mandatory training is not enough to prepare military reserves for combat, he said.
“People are reluctant to serve in the military or attend the educational mobilization of military reserves not because they do not want to protect the country, but because they are sick and tired of the bureaucratic military culture where everything is business as usual and superficial. They see it is a complete waste of time when they are repeatedly told to follow orders and clean the barracks,” he said.
Many draftees also have serious doubts about how much the combat skills they learn in training can prepare them for actual battle, he said.
“In target practice, they are taught to shoot from a prone position, but do not practice shooting when standing or dynamic shooting. The number of shots available for practice are insufficient and not enough for a draftee to become familiar with their weapon,” he said.
“Draftees are only required to hit targets. Such training is completely out of touch with reality, and it is impossible to enter the battlefield in this way,” he added.
Wang said women should be included in the training of military reserves, adding that mandatory participation of women can take various forms.
“A modern war needs more than just foot soldiers fighting in battlefields. It also needs personnel who are trained to provide emergency medical care, prevent disasters or perform other important tasks,” she said. “Women, as well as men who are unable to serve because of family or physical reasons, should be able to participate in military training in diverse ways.”
Prior to the war with Russia, Ukraine’s territorial defense forces had been recruiting volunteers and training them for fighting or performing other tasks on weekends and holidays, Wang said.
Repeated and frequent training help build up the nation’s defense system, she said.
All Taiwanese, regardless of gender or status, should defend Taiwan from military and other threats from China, Wang said.
“As a representative of the people, as a mother of two children and a Taiwanese, I am willing to be the first to join mandatory training and defend the homeland for my children with concrete actions, and protect our democracy and freedom,” she said.
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