Taiwan unveils record defence budget amid tensions with China

Proposed budget would raise self-ruled island’s military spending by 13.9 percent year on year.

Taiwan has unveiled plans for a record boost in defence spending, weeks after China staged large-scale military drills near the island [File: Taiwan Presidential Office/Handout via Reuters]

Taiwan has unveiled plans for a record boost in defence spending, weeks after China staged unprecedented military exercises around the democratically governed island.

The 13.9 percent spending increase, which includes funding for new fighter jets and other equipment, would take the total defence budget to a record 586.3 billion New Taiwan dollars ($19.41bn), or about 15 percent of total government expenditure.

The budget, which was announced by President Tsai Ing-wen’s government on Thursday and is subject to parliamentary approval, marks a sharp rise in spending compared with increases of about 4-5 percent in recent years.

Tsai said the self-ruled island’s determination to defend its sovereignty would not change due to “pressure or threats”.

“At the same time, as a responsible member of the international community, Taiwan will not provoke incidents nor escalate conflicts,” Tsai said.

Taiwan last year announced plans to spend an additional $8.69bn by 2026 on top of its annual defence budget in order to boost the island’s naval capabilities.

Tsai, the leader of the Democratic Progressive Party, has pledged to modernise the island’s armed forces, which are dwarfed by China’s fast-expanding military.

Beijing in March announced plans to spend a record 1.45 trillion yuan ($211.62 bn) on defence, a figure some analysts believe understates the scale of its expenditure on the armed forces.

China held unprecedented live-fire drills near the island in August following a series of visits to Taiwan by United States politicians including US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Beijing has accused the US of attempting to overturn decades of diplomatic policy concerning the island, which the Chinese Communist Party considers a province that must be “reunified” with the mainland by force if necessary.

The Biden administration has said it does not support Taiwan’s independence, but opposes any attempt to change the status quo by force.

Source: News Agencies