Taiwan is poised to extend compulsory military service from four months to a year, President Tsai Ing-wen said on Tuesday, calling the move “incredibly difficult” but necessary, amid heightened tensions between Taipei and Beijing.
Speaking after a national security council meeting, the president of the self-governed island stated that the change is expected to enter into force in 2024. Under the plans, recruits would undergo more rigorous training, including the type used by US forces. They will also be instructed on how to operate more powerful weapons, including Stinger anti-air missiles.
While on duty, draftees will guard infrastructure facilities, allowing more experienced troops to mount a quick response in case of an incursion.
Outlining the reasons for the move, Tsai pointed to China’s “intimidation and threats against Taiwan,” which are “getting more obvious.” She said that under the circumstances, the current military system, including training reservists, is not efficient.
The president said that while Taiwan seeks peace, it needs to be able to defend itself. “As long as Taiwan is strong enough, it will be the home of democracy and freedom all over the world, and it will not become a battlefield,” she stated. “No one wants war… but… peace will not fall from the sky.”
On Monday, Taiwan claimed that more than 70 Chinese military planes and reconnaissance drones, as well as seven naval ships, had been spotted near the island over the past 24 hours.
China insisted that it was engaged in “strike drills” in the area in response to the “current US-Taiwan escalation and provocation.” The exercises came several days after the US authorized $10 billion in security assistance for Taiwan within its military budget.
As things stand, the island has 170,000 active military personnel, with another 1.5 million in reserve. According to Taiwanese law, all males between the ages of 18 and 36 must serve in the military unless they are exempted.
Beijing considers Taiwan sovereign Chinese territory. Since 1949, the island has been ruled by nationalists who fled the mainland with US help after losing the Chinese Civil War to the communists.
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