Taiwan extends mandatory military service from four months to one year

KEY POINTS
  • Taiwan’s military has been shrinking in size since the early 1990s, when conscription lasted as long as three years.
  • President Tsai Ing-wen says the decision to extend the length of military service now is a response to China’s “military aggression”.
  • In August, China held its largest-ever military exercises in Taiwanese waters.
Taiwan on Tuesday announced an extension of mandatory military service from four months to a year, citing the threat of an increasingly hostile China.
Beijing considers democratic, self-governing Taiwan a part of its territory, to be taken one day, by force if necessary, 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 raised concerns in Taiwan that Beijing would move similarly to annex the island. .

“China’s intimidation and threats against Taiwan are becoming more and more evident,” President Tsai Ing-wen told 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 rapidly changing situation,” he said. “We have decided to restore the one-year military service from 2024.”

The expanded requirement will apply to men born after January 1, 2005, Ms. tsai

Conscription used to be deeply unpopular in Taiwan, and its previous government had shortened it from one year to four months in an effort to create a mostly volunteer force.
But recent polls showed that more than three-quarters of the Taiwanese public now think it is too 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 prevent a war by preparing for a war, and we can only stop a war if we are able to make it.”

overcome

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 Taiwan’s “reunification” cannot be handed down to future generations.
Taiwan and China were divided at the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949, and Ms. Tsai has said that becoming part of China is not acceptable to the people of the island.

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

China's exercises against Taiwan generate an image of global alarm

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

The military service announcement on Tuesday came two days after Chinese military exercises near Taiwan, which were held in response to what Beijing called “provocations” and “collusion” between Washington and Taipei.

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