2023-0105: Taiwan Reinstates One-Year Conscription; Ex-NATO Chief Backs Taiwan’s Self-Determination; U.S. Arms Sale to Taiwan

Taiwan Reinstates One-Year Conscription, While Announcing Military Reforms

On December 27, 2022, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen announced military reforms and the extension of compulsory military service from four months to one year, effective January 1, 2024, to strengthen Taiwan’s combat readiness against potential Chinese attacks.

The decision is expected to affect conscripts who were born on January 1, 2005 and after.

“The decision is a difficult one, but as the head of the military and for the continued survival of Taiwan, this is an inevitable responsibility,” Tsai said.

At the same time, Tsai also announced a structural reform of Taiwan’s military that more clearly delineates the main tasks of its voluntary, compulsory, reserve and civil defense units.

According to the proposed reform, Taiwan’s voluntary force, which constitutes the backbone of Taiwan’s armed forces, will be responsible for defending the country’s territory, airspace, and surrounding waters.

Conscripts serving their mandatory one-year-service and reservists, meanwhile, will be responsible for handling homeland defense, guarding military posts and key infrastructure, while serving as backup forces for the armed forces, Tsai said.

Civil defense units will be mainly responsible for playing supportive role during wartime and help disaster relief efforts in peacetime, she added.

With the Chinese threat looming, Taiwan must prepare for war, and ensure that it can fight to prevent war or end it if one begins, Tsai said.

To ensure conscripts do not waste time during the longer service period, they would undergo more intense and longer boot camp training to boost their combat preparedness, she added.

Since 1949, Taiwanese men aged 18 and over had been required to serve two or three years in the military as part of the country’s conscription system.

After 2000, conscription was gradually reduced to one year by 2008.

Under former president Ma Ying-jeou of the Chinese Nationalist Party or Kuomintang (KMT), who was in office from 2008 to 2016, Taiwan’s military was turned into a mainly volunteer force, with conscripts, serving in support roles, only required to undergo four months of military training since 2013.

[1] Focus Taiwan: https://focustaiwan.tw/politics/202212270009
[2] Focus Taiwan: https://focustaiwan.tw/politics/202212270013
[3] Taipei Times: https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2022/12/28/2003791545

Visiting Ex-NATO Chief Backs Taiwan’s Self-Determination, Freedom, and Democracy

On January 4, former NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said his ongoing visit to Taiwan was a show of “strong support” for the country’s self-determination, freedom, and democracy.

The former Danish prime minister Rasmussen, who served as the secretary-general of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) from 2009 to 2014, arrived in Taiwan on January 3 for a three-day trip.

During a meeting with Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen on January 4, Rasmussen said he was “here in Taiwan to show my strong support for your rights to decide the future of Taiwan yourselves; I am here to show my strong support for your rights to exist in freedom and peace.”

Rasmussen was speaking in his capacity as the founder of the Alliance of Democracies Foundation (AoD), a Denmark-based organization seeking to advance democracy and free markets worldwide.

He said the world’s democracies represented 60 percent of the global economy and that if they worked together, they could be “a formidable force” to deter autocratic nations and regimes, including Beijing.

“Taiwan is a solid democracy belonging to the family of the world’s democracies,” he said, adding that he looked forward to discussing with Tsai how to “further strengthen the bonds between Taiwan and Europe.”

Meanwhile, President Tsai said Taiwan would continue boosting the country’s national defense in response to the challenges of authoritarian expansionism and seeking more cooperation with democratic allies to contribute to the peace and stability of the Indo-Pacific.

Tsai added that the Taiwanese government’s plans to extend compulsory military service from four months to one year and roll out reforms to intensify the troops’ training were part of efforts to strengthen Taiwan’s defense capability.

On January 5, during a press conference in Taipei, Rasmussen said he believed that NATO should react “determinately if China were to attack Taiwan” by helping Taiwan militarily and warn China of “profound and comprehensive economic sanctions” should it invade Taiwan.

“All NATO allies including European countries could play a central role to show that the cost for China of an attack on Taiwan would be so high that the leadership in Beijing would think at least twice before attacking Taiwan,” he added.

[1] Focus Taiwan: https://focustaiwan.tw/politics/202301040007
[2] Taipei Times: https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2023/01/05/2003792014
[3] Focus Taiwan: https://focustaiwan.tw/politics/202301050013

Taiwan Thanks U.S. for “Volcano” Mine Dispensing System Sale

On December 29, 2022, Taiwan’s government thanked the United States after Washington approved the sale of up to US$180 million of vehicle-based mine dispensing equipment — the eighth U.S. arms package to Taiwan under President Joe Biden.

The sale includes M136 “Volcano” (vehicle-launched) anti-tank munition-laying systems and M977A4 HEMTT 10-Ton cargo trucks on which the systems would be mounted, Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense (MND) said in a statement.

The package also includes M87A1 Anti-Tank (AT) munitions, M88 and M89 training munitions, as well as related logistics support and technical assistance.

The equipment included in the sale would significantly boost Taiwan’s asymmetrical warfare capabilities, as it enables rapid and more efficient anti-tank mines placement over a large area, the MND said.

The sale also demonstrated Washington’s commitment to ensuring Taiwan’s capability to defend itself, as stated in the “Taiwan Relations Act” and the “Six Assurances,” the ministry said, expressing its “sincere gratitude” to the U.S.

Meanwhile, Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said that the latest deal was Washington’s eighth arms sale under President Joe Biden’s administration, which “fully demonstrated the U.S. government’s high regard for Taiwan’s defense capabilities.”

The two ministries’ statements came after the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) announced the proposed sale on December 28, 2022.

“The proposed sale will improve the recipient’s capability to meet current and future threats by providing a credible force capable of deterring adversaries and participating in regional operations,” DSCA said in a press release.

[1] Focus Taiwan: https://focustaiwan.tw/politics/202212290006
[2] Taipei Times: https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2022/12/30/2003791667