Taiwan extends conscription from four months to one year

IMPORTANT POINTS
  • Taiwan’s army has shrunk since the early 1990s, when conscription lasted up to three years.
  • President Tsai Ing-wen says the decision to extend military service now is in response to China’s “military aggression”.
  • In August, China held its largest-ever military exercises in waters around Taiwan.
Taiwan on Tuesday announced an extension of compulsory military service from four months to one year, citing the threat from an increasingly hostile China.
Beijing sees self-governing, democratic Taiwan as part of its territory to one day be taken, if necessary by force, and the island lives under constant fear of a Chinese invasion.

China’s saber-rattling has intensified in recent years under President Xi Jinping, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has further deepened fears in Taiwan that Beijing could use a similar move to annex the island.

China’s “intimidation and threats against Taiwan are becoming increasingly evident,” President Tsai Ing-wen said at a news conference after a high-level government meeting on national security.
“No one wants war… but my countrymen, peace will not fall from the sky.”
“The current four-month military service is not enough to cope with the fast and ever-changing situation,” she said. “We have decided to reinstate one-year conscription from 2024.”

The expanded requirement applies to men born after January 1, 2005, Ms Tsai added.

Compulsory service used to be very unpopular in Taiwan, and its previous administration cut it from a year to four months to create a mostly volunteer force.
But recent polls have shown that more than three-quarters of the Taiwanese public now believe that is falling short.
Ms Tsai described the extension as “an extremely difficult decision…to ensure the democratic way of life for our future generations”.

“We can only avoid war by preparing for war, and we can only stop war by being able to fight war.”

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The prospect of a Chinese invasion has increasingly worried Western nations and many of China’s neighbors.
Xi, China’s most authoritarian leader in decades, has made it clear that what he calls the “reunification” of Taiwan cannot be passed on to future generations.
Taiwan and China split at the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949, and Ms Tsai said becoming a part of China was unacceptable to the people of the island.

Taiwan is a mountainous island and would present a formidable challenge for an invading force, but according to a Pentagon estimate released last month, it is massively outnumbered with 89,000 ground troops compared to China’s one million.

China's maneuvers against Taiwan trigger global alarm

Beijing also has a major advantage in military equipment.
Taiwan has stepped up reservist training and increased purchases of fighter jets and anti-ship missiles to bolster its defenses. But experts have said that’s not enough.
The island needs to go further than just expanding mandatory service, said J. Michael Cole, a Taipei-based analyst.
“Given the threat level and the example of Russia in Ukraine, I hope the Taiwanese public will realize that such measures are needed,” he told AFP.
“The threat Taiwan faces is just as existential.”

Tuesday’s military service announcement came two days after Chinese military exercises near Taiwan held in response to what Beijing described as “provocations” and “collusion” between Washington and Taipei.

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