With an increase in military threat from China in recent months, Taiwan plans to spend $1.44 billion on procurement of new fighter jets to bolster its armed forces even as the island announced a more modest speed of increase in defence spending for next year on Thursday.
In recent months, military activity near Taiwan has been increased by China which included conducting assault drills last week near the island. The relations between Taiwan and China have been tumultuous for years as China considers the island to be part of its own territory and believes that it has to be b rough under its control even if it is necessary to use force.
A total military spending of T$471.7 billion ($16.89 billion) for the forthcoming year starting in January is being proposed by Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen’s cabinet which is more than the budget spending this year of T$453.4 billion, the government said in a statement.
Out of that total proposed budgeted spending, Taiwan intends to expend T$40.1 billion ($1.44 billion) for buying new fighter jets. According to analysts and experts, those new planes are likely to be F-16s even though the government did not give details about the purchase.
An $8 billion sale of F-16 fighter jets to Taiwan was approved by the United States in 2019 which would increase the total number of F-16s in the possession of the island to more than 200. That would be the largest fleet of F-16s in Asia.
According to analysts’ calculations based on government data, the rate of growth in defence spending by Taiwan for the forthcoming year would be lower than the 10 per cent increase in defence spending for this year.
In comparison, the Chinese expenditure, as announced by Beijing in March this year, for 2021 was increased by 6.8 per cent compared to the previous year of 2020 as the second largest economy of the world emerges from the hit of the coronavirus pandemic.
The proposed budget allocation by Taiwan for its defence for next year is the third largest government expenditure for the year, exceeded by government spending on social welfare and the combined expenditure on education, science and culture.
The budget must be approved by parliament, where Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party has a large majority, making its approval easier.
While Taiwan’s current government has focused on modernization and increasing defence spending of the island’s armed forces, the capacity is still majorly dwarfed by that of China.
One of the aims of that strategy is to make Taiwan a “porcupine” equipped with advanced, highly mobile weapons so that a Chinese invasion of the island is made as difficult as possible for Beijing.
(Adapted from Reuters.com)