Taiwan eyes $8.7bn more for arms as it warns of ‘severe threats’

Taiwan’s Defence Ministry wants more cruise missiles and warships as it continues to fend off almost daily threats from Beijing.

Taiwan has proposed spending an extra 240 billion Taiwan dollars ($8.69bn) on defence over the next five years including on new missiles, warning of the urgent need to upgrade weapons in the face of “severe threats” from China, which claims the island as its own.

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, who first came to office in 2016, has made modernising the armed forces and increasing defence spending a priority.

The new money which comes on top of planned military spending of 471.7bn Taiwan dollars ($17bn) for the year starting in January, will need to be approved by parliament. Tsai’s ruling party has a large majority so 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 on Thursday 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.”

Taiwan aims to buy equipment including cruise missiles and warships with the money, 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.

‘Aircraft carrier killer’

The additional cash will probably be welcomed in Washington, which has been pushing Taiwan to modernise its military and make it more nimble.

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, which simulate fending off a Chinese attack.

On Wednesday, Taiwanese fighter jets landed on a makeshift runway on a stretch of highway, which can be pressed into service in the event of a Chinese attack on its air force bases.

On Wednesday, amid the military exercises, Chinese aircraft again flew into Taiwan’s air defence zone.

Taiwan’s air force has been scrambled on an almost daily basis to intercept Chinese aircraft in the island’s air defence zone, mostly close to the Taiwan-controlled Pratas Islands at the northern part of the disputed South China Sea.

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