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A handout photo made available by Taiwan's Military News Agency shows two Taiwan Air Force F-16A/B fighter planes at the Hualien Airbase in eastern Taiwan on January 1. Photo: EPA

Taiwan plans defence spending increase to counter rising China

Military expenditure targeted to rise to highest percentage of GDP since 1999


Taiwan plans to raise its defence spending next year in an attempt to offset China’s growing military might.

Defence spending is targeted to rise to 3 per cent of gross domestic product in 2018, up from about 2 per cent this year, Minister of National Defence Feng Shih-kuan told lawmakers in Taipei on Thursday. Taiwan plans to develop indigenous ships, aircraft, weapons and unmanned aerial vehicles capable of defence or offence, he said.

Taiwan’s defence expenditures have declined since the 1980s, when Taiwan spent more than 5 per cent of GDP on its military, according to data compiled by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Taiwan hasn’t spent 3 per cent of GDP on the military since 1999, according to Sipri. 

A Taiwanese AH-64E Apache attack helicopter fires a missile during the Han Kuang (Chinese Glory) 32nd military exercise in Pingtung county, Taiwan, in August 2016. Photo: EPA

Defence Ministry spokesman Chen Chung-chi said defence expenditures last exceeded 3 per cent in 2008. “We hope for an increase to 3 per cent next year, but the government also needs to consider revenue and balance it among other ministries,” Chen said.

The push comes amid growing tensions with Taiwan’s one-time civil war rivals on the mainland over the pro-independence leanings of President Tsai Ing-wen’s Democratic Progressive Party. Since taking power last year, Tsai has refused to endorse the one-China framework for continued talks, under which both sides agree they belong to the same country even if they have different interpretations of what that is.

Members of the Taiwan Army's reconnaissance troops take part in a military drill on Kinmen Island in the Taiwan Strait in January 2016. Photo: EPA

China has poured money into a sweeping military modernization effort in recent decades, giving it the ability to project force further from its coasts. Taiwan remains a top focus of the People’s Liberation Army, which continues to have some 1,200 missiles aimed across the Taiwan Strait.

China considers the island a breakaway province that will eventually be united with the mainland, by force if necessary. The United States continues to sell weapons to Taiwan and is obligated to defend the island under a 1979 law.

Premier Li Keqiang on Wednesday reiterated China’s stance of opposing Taiwanese independence and seeking peaceful reunification. “We are one family,” Li said.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Taiwan to boost defence spending as PLA expands