Taiwan's special defence budget to go mostly on anti-ship capabilities

TAIPEI (REUTERS) – Taiwan’s extra military spending of NT$240 billion (S$11.7 billion) over the next five years will go mostly towards naval weapons, including missiles and warships, the defence ministry said, warning that the threat from China was worse than ever.

Taiwan proposed the extra spending last month as tensions with China, which claims the island as its own territory, have hit a new high and Chinese military aircraft have repeatedly flown through Taiwan’s air defence identification zone.

The ministry’s draft spending proposal, a copy of which was reviewed by Reuters, was sent to parliament for review on Tuesday (Oct 5).

About 64 per cent of the money will be spent on anti-ship weapons such as land-based missile systems, including a NT$148.9 billion plan to mass produce homegrown missiles and “high-performance” ships, it said.

In a preamble to the proposal, the ministry noted China’s increased military spending, especially on advanced fighters and amphibious warfare ships, and stepped-up Chinese air force and navy activity near Taiwan.

“The military threats and provocation are even more than before,” it said, adding that any crisis was likely to escalate fast.

Quickly building “asymmetrical” capabilities is crucial “to effectively deter a war”, the ministry said. For example, Taiwan is mounting some of its missiles on trucks instead of placing them in fixed bases to make them harder to find and destroy.

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen has made modernising the armed forces – well-armed but dwarfed by China’s – and increasing defence spending a priority.

The ministry is also proposing NT$29.6 billion for Wan Chien air-to-ground missiles and the upgraded version of its Hsiung Feng IIE missile, the longer-range Hsiung Sheng land-attack missile.

The new money, which comes on top of planned military spending of NT$471.7 billion for 2022, must be approved by parliament. Ms Tsai’s ruling party has a large majority, so passage should be smooth.

Taiwan has been eager to demonstrate it can defend itself, and Washington, the island’s most important international backer, has been pushing the government to modernise its military to better deter Beijing.

Taiwan offered an unusually stark assessment of China’s abilities in its annual report on China’s military, saying it could “paralyse” Taiwan’s defences.

Taiwan has already put into service a new class of stealthy warship, which it calls an “aircraft carrier killer” because of its missile complement, and is developing its own submarines.

Taiwan says it is an independent country and not part of China, and will defend its freedom and democracy.

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