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Taiwan to extend compulsory military service to one year

December 27, 2022

Citing the threat from an increasingly hostile China, Taiwan said conscripts would serve longer in the military. President Tsai Ing-wen said her country had to meet the "fast and ever-changing situation."

Taiwanese soldiers are seen holding grenade launchers and machine guns during a military exercise
The extended service requirement will apply to men born after January 1, 2005Image: Daniel Ceng Shou-Yi/ZUMA/picture alliance

Taiwan will extend its compulsory military service to one year from four months, President Tsai Ing-wen said on Tuesday.

"As long as Taiwan is strong enough, it will be the home of democracy and freedom all over the world, and it will not become a battlefield," Tsai said.

She spoke after the National Security Council discussed ways to reinforce the island's civil defense to prepare for the increasing threat from China.

"The current four-month military service is not enough to meet the fast and ever-changing situation," she noted.

The change would come into effect in January 2024.

China's saber-rattling

The policy shift comes as the island is increasingly concerned over the prospect of a Chinese invasion.

"No one wants war," Tsai Ing-wen said, adding, "But my fellow countrymen, peace will not fall from the sky." 

China has sharply increased military maneuvers close to Taiwan's borders in the past year. In October, Chinese President Xi Jinping made clear that what he calls the "reunification" of Taiwan cannot be passed on to future generations.

On Monday, 71 Chinese air force aircraft, including fighter jets and drones, entered Taiwan's air defense identification zone.

During the latest incursion, Taiwan's Defense Ministry said that several Chinese planes also crossed the Taiwan Strait's median line, an unofficial buffer between the two sides that lies within the defense zone.

'No pressure' from the US

Taiwan has been gradually shifting from a conscript military to a volunteer-dominated professional force, but China's growing assertiveness towards the island it claims as its own, as well as Russia's invasion of Ukraine, have prompted debate about how to boost defense.

Recent polling showed more than three-quarters of the Taiwanese public believed the four-month military service was too short.

Conscripts would be tasked with guarding key infrastructure, enabling regular forces to respond more swiftly in the event of any attempt by China to invade, they added.

Taiwan was, however, still massively outmanned in a conflict, with 88,000 ground forces compared with China's one million, according to US military estimates.

Tsai Ing-wen said there was "no pressure" from the United States for military reforms.

However conscripts would undergo more intense training, including shooting exercises, combat instruction used by US forces.

lo/ar (AFP, Reuters)