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Taiwan plans record defense spending as China threat increases

US-made CM-11 tanks (in background) are fired in front of two 8-inch self-propelled artillery guns during a war game. (AFP/Sam Yeh). Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

Pan Pacific Agency | COMMUICATION AGENCY FOR PACIFICA REGIONS

TAIPEI, Aug 16, 2019, Bloomberg. Taiwan plans to spend a record amount on national defense next year as President Tsai Ing-wen looks to bolster the island’s defenses in the face of threats from an increasingly assertive China, reported The Jakarta Post.

Taiwan’s government proposed increasing the total national defense budget by 5.2 percent in 2020 to NT$358 billion ($11.4 billion) to fund a recruitment drive and hardware purchases, the statistics bureau said Thursday. Tsai has boosted military spending since 2018, after under-investment by her predecessor Ma Ying-jeou.

Despite Taiwan’s plans to dedicate more financial resources to its armed forces, it still lags far behind what China, its main military rival, spends each year. Beijing spent some $250 billion on its military in 2018, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, as President Xi Jinping works to modernize his army to compete with the US.

China claims democratically run Taiwan as part of its territory. It has increased its number of navy and air force “encirclement” patrols around the island since independence-leaning Tsai came to power in 2016.

The US is the main supplier of weaponry and military equipment to Taiwan, a major source of tension between the two superpowers amid fraught negotiations to end their trade war. Washington has approved $2 billion in arms sales, publicized naval transits through the Taiwan Strait and showed other support for Tsai.

Washington’s top representative on the island welcomed the increase.

“We anticipate that these figures will continue to grow commensurate with the threats Taiwan faces,” American Institute in Taiwan Director Brent Christensen said in a speech in Taipei Thursday.

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