Taiwan passes extra $8.6bn defence budget as China threat grows

Taipei is aiming to acquire precision missiles to thwart the threat of an invasion by authoritarian China.

Taiwan Navy's Tuo Chiang-class corvette shoot decoy flare during a military exercise off the shore in Keelung, Taiwan.
Democratic Taiwan lives under constant threat of an invasion by authoritarian China, which claims the self-ruled island as part of its territory [File: I-Hwa Cheng/Bloomberg via Getty Images]

Taiwan’s parliament has passed an extra spending bill of $8.6bn, in the latest bid to boost defence capabilities against growing military threats from China.

Lawmakers on Tuesday agreed unanimously to pass the special budget, which comes on top of a record annual defence budget of about $17bn set for 2022.

The additional resources are aimed at acquiring precision missiles and mass-manufacture high-efficiency naval ships “in the shortest period of time” to boost the island’s sea and air capabilities, the government said.

The budget includes a coastal anti-ship missiles system, a locally developed Wan Chien (Ten Thousand Swords) cruise missile as well as an attack drone system and installation of combat systems on coastguard ships.

Democratic Taiwan lives under constant threat of an invasion by authoritarian China, which claims the self-ruled island as part of its territory.

China has stepped up military and political pressure, publicising multiple recent military drills simulating an invasion.

Its warplanes also breached Taiwan’s air defence zone at unprecedented levels last year. In the largest ever incursion, at least 38 Chinese aircraft flying in two waves crossed the island’s air defence zone in October, prompting the deployment of fighter jets.

A month prior to the incident, Taiwan’s air force had scrambled to warn away 10 Chinese aircraft that entered its air defence zone, a day after it had announced a $9bn boost to military spending.

While tensions between Taipei and Beijing remain high, Taiwan’s Defence Ministry’s latest threat assessment found a full Chinese invasion with troops landed and ports and airports seized would be very difficult to achieve due to difficulties in landing and supplying troops.

Washington has remained a leading ally and arms supplier to Taipei, which the United States does not officially recognise as a sovereign nation.

J Michael Cole, a Taipei-based political and military analyst with the Canadian Macdonald-Laurier Institute, told the AFP news agency, “Taiwan needs to make sure it has the capabilities to deter, and if needed to counter, a Chinese attack now, not five, ten years from now.”

“[The extra spending bill] will also be welcomed by the United States, which often complains that Taiwan focuses too much on large conventional platforms at the detriment of smaller, more dispersible and less costly ‘asymmetrical’ capabilities,” Cole said.

Separately, a Taiwanese F-16 fighter jet vanished on Tuesday while on a training mission over the sea and efforts were under way to find the pilot, the government said.

The Defence Ministry said the F-16V, the most advanced type in Taiwan’s fleet, went missing from radar screens after taking off from the Chiayi airbase in southern Taiwan.

The accident is the latest to befall the island’s air force. In late 2020, an F-16 vanished shortly after taking off from the Hualien airbase on Taiwan’s east coast on a routine training mission.

Last year, two F-5E fighters, which first entered service in Taiwan in the 1970s, crashed into the sea off the southeast coast after they apparently collided midair during a training mission.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies