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Taipei: Taiwan has proposed $28 billion in defence spending for next year, a double-digit increase on 2022 that includes funds for new fighter jets, weeks after China staged large-scale war games around the island.
China carried out its largest-ever military exercises around the democratically governed island it claims as its own, after a visit this month by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The trip infuriated Beijing, which saw it as an attempt by Washington to interfere in China’s internal affairs.
Taiwan’s Indigenous Defence Fighter jets release flares during the Han Kuang military exercise Pingtung, Taiwan. The drill simulates the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) invading the islandCredit:Getty Images
The overall proposed defence budget by President Tsai Ing-wen’s cabinet sets a 13.9 per cent year-on-year increase to a record T$586.3 billion ($28 billion).
That includes an additional T$108.3 billion for fighter jets and other equipment, as well as other “special funds” for the Defence Ministry. A statement from the Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics did not provide a breakdown of expenditure.
The proposal must be approved by parliament. It would be the island’s sixth consecutive year of growth in defence spending since 2017. Previously rises have been contained to below 4 per cent yearly.
Statistics Department Minister Chu Tzer-ming said the increase would mainly go to operational costs.
“We always give safety and national security the top priority… that’s why [the budget for] operational costs rises greatly,” Chu said, pointing to fuel and maintenance for aircraft and ships dispatched to counter Chinese military activities as examples.
Soldiers set up barricades on a beach during a military exercise in Miaoli, Taiwan, last month.Credit:Bloomberg
Excluding the extra budget for military equipment and funds, proposed defence spending represents a 12.9 per cent year-on-year increase, compared with a 20.8 per cent increase in the overall government budget proposed for next year.
That proposed spending accounts for 14.6 per cent of the government’s total spending for next year and is the fourth-largest spending segment, after social welfare and combined spending on education, science and culture, and economic development.
The island last year announced an extra defence budget of $US8.69 billion by 2026, which came on top of its yearly military spending, mostly on naval weapons, including missiles and warships.
In March, China said it would spend 7.1 per cent more on defence this year, setting the spending figure at 1.45 trillion yuan ($303.8 billion), though many experts suspect that is not the true figure, an assertion the government disputes.
China has been continuing its military activities near Taiwan, though on a reduced scale.
Live-fire drills were to take place in a coastal part of China’s Fujian province on Friday and Saturday, just north of the tiny Taiwan-controlled Wuchiu islands in the Taiwan Strait, Fujian authorities saidy, announcing a no-sail zone.
Tsai has made modernising the armed forces – well-armed but dwarfed by China’s – a priority.
China is spending on advanced equipment, including stealthy fighters and aircraft carriers, which Taiwan is trying to counter by putting more effort into weapons such as missiles that can strike far into its giant neighbour’s territory.
A projectile is launched from an unspecified location in China during long-range live-fire drills, August 4, two days after US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan.Credit:Xinhua
China has not ruled out using force to bring the island under its control. Taiwan rejects Beijing’s sovereignty claims, saying that the People’s Republic of China has never ruled the island and that only Taiwanese people can decide their future.
Meeting visiting Japanese academics at her office on Thursday, Tsai reiterated that the determination to protect the island’s sovereignty, freedom and democracy would not change “due to pressure or threats”.
“At the same time, as a responsible member of the international community, Taiwan will not provoke incidents nor escalate conflicts,” Tsai said, in comments published on her social media pages.
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