Taiwan will extend mandatory military service from four months to one year from 2024 due to the growing threat the island faces from China, President Tsai Ing-wen said on Tuesday.
The move, which had already been flagged, comes as China ramps up military, diplomatic and economic pressure on Taiwan to assert its sovereignty claims, including near-daily missions by the Chinese air force near the island over the past three years.
Tsai said Taiwan wants peace but needs to be able to defend itself. “As long as Taiwan is strong enough, it will be the home of democracy and freedom around the world and will not become a battleground,” the president said at a press conference.
According to her, enacting the extension of the recruitment period was “incredibly difficult”. But Tsai argued that the current military system, including the training of reservists, was inefficient and insufficient to deal with China’s growing military threat, especially if its neighbor launched a swift attack on the island.
“Taiwan wants to tell the world that between democracy and dictatorship, we firmly believe in democracy. Between war and peace, we insist on peace. Let us show courage and determination to protect our motherland and defend democracy.”
Recruits will undergo more intense training, including marksmanship drills, combat instruction used by US forces, and operating more powerful weapons, including Stinger anti-aircraft missiles and anti-tank missiles.
Taipei, which rejects Beijing’s sovereignty claims over Taiwan, on Monday reported the biggest incursion by the Chinese air force into the island’s air defense identification zone, with 43 Chinese planes crossing an unofficial barrier between the two sides.
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