Taiwan to extend conscription to one year, citing rising China threat
Taiwan will extend compulsory military service to one year from four months from 2024 due to the rising threat the democratically governed island faces from its giant neighbour China, President Tsai Ing-wen said on Tuesday.
The move comes as China ramps up military, diplomatic and economic pressure on Taiwan to assert its sovereignty claims, including almost daily Chinese air force missions near the island over the past three years.
Tsai said Taiwan wanted peace but needed 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,” Tsai told a news conference announcing the decision to extend the conscription period, which she described as “incredibly difficult”.
The current military system, including training reservists, is inefficient and insufficient to cope with China’s rising military threat, especially if it launched a rapid attack on the island, Tsai added.
”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 the courage and determination to protect our homeland and defend democracy.”
Conscripts will undergo more intense training, including shooting exercises, combat instruction used by US forces, and operating more powerful weapons including Stinger anti-aircraft missiles and anti-tank missiles, Tsai said.
Conscripts would be tasked with guarding key infrastructure, enabling regular forces to respond more swiftly in the event of any attempt by China to invade, the defence ministry said at the same news conference.
Chieh Chung, researcher at the National Policy Foundation, a Taipei-based think tank, estimated that the extension could add an extra 60,000 to 70,000 manpower annually to the current 165,000-strong professional force in 2027 and beyond.