Tensions with China: Taiwan extends conscription

Tensions with China: Taiwan extends conscription

Concerned about China, the government in Taipei is extending the compulsory length of service for men in the military. Instead of four, it is now twelve months.

Uniformed with weapons in training

Must now longer in the military: recruits in Taiwan during training Photo: Chiang Ying-ying/ap

TAIPEI taz | Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen announced the extension of compulsory military service from four to twelve months at a meeting of the National Security Council on Tuesday. Combat training with modern weapons is also to be expanded as part of the reform. Among other things, soldiers are to be trained in using anti-aircraft missiles.

In addition, every recruit will fire “no fewer than 800 shots” of live ammunition during his military service. The monthly salary increases from the equivalent of 200 euros to 800 euros per month.

At a press conference in the capital, Taipei, Tsai said China was threatening peace in the region. The reform of the military service is therefore an “inevitable step to ensure Taiwan’s long-term survival.”

In addition, the President referred to the ongoing for more than 300 days Russian invasion of Ukraine: “Our freedom-loving people are deeply touched by the way Ukrainians are defending their country.”

In 2013, the compulsory service period was shortened

Taiwan’s previous government under the nationalist Kuomintang (KMT) had reduced the compulsory period of service from one year to four months in 2013 – with the overriding goal of organizing national defense primarily on the basis of a professional army. Tsai is now reversing this reform with her Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

With regard to the “change in the external security situation”, the KMT leadership even met with cautious approval. At the same time, the KMT is calling for the pay of recruits to be further increased and the army’s equipment to be improved.

A spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry criticized the extension of military service on Wednesday to journalists in Beijing. The reunification of Taiwan and mainland China remains “the common will of the Chinese people.” The majority of people in Taiwan understand this and will not serve as “cannon fodder for the advocates of Taiwan independence,” the spokesman said.

According to the latest opinion polls, however, almost three-quarters of Taiwanese support the reform that has now been announced and say they would defend the country against a military invasion.

However, according to Paul Huang of the Taiwanese Public Opinion Foundation, support for extension of military service is lowest at around 35 percent in the 20-24 age group, where many men are affected by extension of military service. China had only shown again on Monday in the Taiwan Strait with 47 military aircraft that it is the conquest of the island prepared.

The reform of compulsory military service will increase Taiwan’s troop strength by 60,000 to 70,000 from the current 165,000. The extension of military service will come into force at the beginning of 2024.

Contrary to some demands from society, only men will have to do military service in the future. Conscripts who refuse to carry arms can be sentenced to up to five years in prison. In practice, however, there are usually only fines.

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