Taiwan plans to increase its military spending in an effort to meet threats from mainland China.
The military budget is expected to reach $13.1 billion next year.
Taiwan’s Central News Agency said the proposed budget includes an increase of 5.2 percent for defense. The island’s parliament must first approve the spending increase.
A Defense Ministry spokesman said Sunday that the military will raise its spending next year for “sustaining personnel” and making “military investments.”
China’s government considers Taiwan a rebel territory. Chinese officials have threatened to use force, if needed, to regain control of the island.
Taiwan has been a self-ruling area since the end of China’s civil war in 1949. A government study in January found that most Taiwanese like their system of government more than the idea of Chinese rule.
China military continues fast growth
The website GlobalFirePower.com reports that China’s military has about 2.2 million active duty members compared to Taiwan’s 215,000. The People’s Liberation Army operates 714 military ships and 3,187 aircraft while Taiwan’s military has 87 ships and 837 aircraft.
China raised its military spending by 7.5 percent this year, while Taiwan proposed an estimated 5.6 percent increase for 2019.
Since Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen took office in 2016, discussions between the two sides have slowed to a halt. Tsai disputes the mainland’s condition for talks, namely that each side consider itself part of China.
China has periodically sent warships, including aircraft carriers, into waters around Taiwan.
Tsai has supported more development of Taiwan-made weaponry, including jet aircraft and submarines.
Foreign-made weapons part of the program
Taiwan’s Central News Agency reported that a bigger defense budget will help the island’s “long-term program” to get modern weapons from foreign countries.
The United States is Taiwan’s main arms supplier. The government of U.S. President Donald Trump has approved four arms sales to Taiwan since 2017. All have been made with disapproval by China.
On Sunday, the Trump administration sent to Congress a proposal to sell new F-16 fighter planes to Taiwan for $8 billion.
The deal would be the largest arms sale to Taiwan in 20 years, notes Huang Kwei-bo. He is with National Chengchi University in Taipei.
But Taiwan will need to find ways to pay for the new jets.
Last month, the Trump administration approved a separate $2.2 billion arms sale, involving tanks, to the island.
Andrew Yang heads the Chinese Council of Advanced Policy Studies in Taiwan. He said the $8 billion is a lot of money and will require changes to the government’s spending plan.
“It’s a huge payment actually, I don’t know if we can support it,” he said. However, he said, “Taiwan’s jets need an upgrade…it’s actually a good choice and it’s been 20 years already in the works.”
I’m Mario Ritter Jr.
Ralf Jennings reported this story for VOA News. Mario Ritter Jr. adapted it for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
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Words in This Story
sustaining – adj. supporting and extending life or usefulness
in the works – idiom involving something being planned; being planned for