Taiwan To Spend Big On Defence Amid Escalating China Tension

Taiwan has proposed to spend $19 billion on defence for year 2023, weeks after China staged large-scale military exercises around the island it views as its territory

Taiwan on Thursday proposed to spend $19 billion, a double-digit increase on 2022 budget that includes funds for new fighter jets.

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China carried out its largest-ever war games around the democratically governed island after a visit this month by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The trip infuriated Beijing, which saw it as a U.S. attempt to interfere in China’s internal affairs.

The overall defence budget proposed by President Tsai Ing-wen’s Cabinet sets a 13.9% year-on-year increase to a record T$586.3 billion ($19.41 billion).

That includes an additional T$108.3 billion for fighter jets and other equipment, as well as “special funds” for the defence ministry. The Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics did not provide a specific break-down of where money would go.

The planned defence spending, which is a record high and must be approved by parliament, marks the island’s sixth consecutive year of growth in defence spending since 2017. The double-digit rise on 2022 marks a sharp increase compared with the island’s defence spending growth in recent years; yearly growth has been below 4% since 2017.

Statistics department minister Chu Tzer-ming said the increase would mainly go to operational costs.

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“We always give safety and national security the top priority … that’s why (the budget for) operational costs rises greatly,” Chu said, pointing to costs such as fuel and maintenance for aircraft and ships dispatched to counter Chinese military activity near Taiwan.

Taiwan’s defence ministry said in a statement that the budget gave full consideration to the “enemy threat” and was equivalent to 2.4% of Taiwan’s projected GDP for next year.

“In the face of the Chinese communists’ continuous expansion of targeted military activities in recent years and the normalised use of warships and military aircraft to raid and disturb Taiwan’s surrounding seas and airspace, the military adheres to the principle of preparing for war without seeking war and defending national security with strength,” it said.

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