Amid the growing threat from China, Taiwan has announced to stretch its defence budget to T$240 billion ($8.69 billion) over the next five years. This includes spending on new missiles. Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen intends to modernise the armed forces by making high defence spending a priority, especially as China ramps up its military and diplomatic pressure against the island it claims as ‘sacred' Chinese territory.
The new money, which comes on top of planned military spending of T$471.7 billion for the year starting in January, will need to be approved by parliament where Tsai's ruling party has a large majority, meaning its passage should be smooth.
“The Chinese Communists have continued to invest heavily in national defence budgets, its military strength has grown rapidly, and it has frequently dispatched aircraft and ships to invade and harass our seas and airspace,” Taiwan's Defence Ministry said in a statement after a weekly cabinet meeting.
“In the face of severe threats from the enemy, the nation's military is actively engaged in military building and preparation work, and it is urgent to obtain mature and rapid mass production weapons and equipment in a short period of time.”
The weapons Taiwan aims to buy with the money includes cruise missiles and warships, the ministry added. Taiwan has been testing new, long-range missiles off its southern and eastern coasts, and while it has not given details, diplomats and experts have said they are likely to be able to hit targets far into China.
The additional cash will likely be well received in Washington, which has been pushing Taiwan to modernise its military to make it more mobile so it can become a ‘porcupine', hard for China to attack.
Taiwan has already put into service a new class of highly agile stealth warships, which Taiwan refers to as an ‘aircraft carrier killer' due to its missile complement, and is developing its own submarines.
The announcement comes as Taiwan is in the middle of its annual Han Kuang military drills, simulating fending off a Chinese attack. Chinese aircraft again buzzed Taiwan's air defence zone on Wednesday, as they do almost daily.