Taiwan plans to announce a plan Tuesday to increase compulsory military service from its current four-month duration to one year, a top government official stated. This is in response to rising Chinese military pressure.
Tsai-Ing-wen, Taiwan’s President, convened Tuesday morning a meeting to discuss strengthening the island’s civil defense. He will then announce the extension in a news conference later that afternoon. The official declined to identify the source because it was still not publicly available.
The Taiwanese defense ministry refused to comment. However, Tsai stated on Monday that she will be hosting a national security meeting as well as a news conference Tuesday about new civil defense measures.
According to the official, Tsai’s security group, which includes high-ranking officials from both the defense ministry and National Security Council has been reviewing Taiwan’s military system since 2020, amid growing threats from China.
Taipei rejects Beijing’s claims of sovereignty over Taiwan. On Monday, Taipei reported that the Chinese had entered Taiwan’s air defense identification zone with the largest-ever Chinese force. 43 Chinese aircraft crossed an unofficial buffer.
China staged war exercises near Taiwan in August, following Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taipei as Speaker of the U.S. House.
The official who participated in high-level security discussions stated that China’s unilateral behavior has become a significant concern for regional security.
According to the official, plans will be in effect for 2024. Conscripts would receive more intensive training. This includes shooting drills and combat instruction using U.S. forces. They also have more powerful weapons like anti-tank and Stinger missiles.
They explained that conscripts will be responsible for guarding critical infrastructure and allowing regular forces to react more quickly in case of an invasion by China.
Chieh Chung (researcher at the National Policy Foundation in Taipei), estimated that an extension of the 165,000 strong professional force could increase the manpower by 60,000-70,000 annually.
However, even after extension, the service period will be less than that of South Korea’s 18-month mandate. South Korea is currently facing a nuclear-armed and hostile North Korea.
Tsai oversees a wide modernization program and champions the concept of “asymmetric warfare” in order to increase mobility, agility, and resistance to attacks.
According to the official Central News Agency and citing sources from the government and ruling parties familiar with this matter, Taiwan’s government announced late Monday its intention to expand compulsory military service.
The Taiwanese military has gradually changed from being a conscript force to one that is dominated by volunteers. However, China’s assertiveness toward the islands it considers its own and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have raised questions about how best to increase defense. Russia refers to the war as a “special operation”.
In order to appeal to younger voters, the Taiwan government under the Democratic Progressive Party (the ruling party) and the main opposition Kuomintang reduced compulsory service for men from two years to just four months. This was done to ease tensions between Taipei-Beijing.
Reuters reported that Taiwanese military training, especially for conscripts or reservists has declined.
China has increased its diplomatic, military, and economic pressures on Taiwan in recent years to force it into accepting Beijing’s regime. Taiwanese government claims that only Taiwanese can make their own decisions and pledges to protect itself against any attack.