Taiwan may extend conscription as Ukraine invasion stokes China fears | Taiwan

Taiwan is considering extending compulsory military service for young citizens to one year, its defense minister said, in an apparent setback to the island’s years-long transition from conscription to an all-volunteer army.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has reignited debates in Taiwan about its defense force’s readiness for a possible invasion by China, which claims the island as a province it once owes given “take back”. The Taiwanese government has increased its defense spending and arms purchases from the United States, but at the same time it has tried to turn its defense force into an all-volunteer organization and address long-standing security issues. training and resources.

On Wednesday, Taiwan Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng said the current four-month mandatory training system was “inadequate” in the event of a conflict, and the department would review and report on a proposed extension. Chiu said any implementation would be a year later and changes would not happen quickly.

He also flagged the idea of ​​extending conscription to women.

After Japan ceded colonial rule over Taiwan and it came under Kuomintang governance, Taiwan imposed compulsory service of two to three years throughout the decades of martial law, which ended at the end 1980s, and beyond until 2006. Over the next three years it was reduced to one year and voluntary service was expanded.

Since 2013, every man over the age of 18 must complete four months of military training service, in a mostly voluntary force support role. The four months, often referred to as “summer camps,” include about five weeks of basic training, and participants can deduct time if they have taken training courses with a school or college. They become reservists after four months.

Despite large arms purchases and increased military budgets, problems with Taiwan’s armed forces are well documented, with insufficient recruitment in key frontline sectors and concerns over skill levels of reservists.

Observers have drawn parallels between the war in Ukraine and the situation in Taiwan, and raised concerns about the close relationship between Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin. Xi and the Chinese Communist Party government have refused to condemn Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

While noting that there are differences in the situation, the Taiwanese government has taken steps to address the concerns, including a strongly encouraged increase in reservist training from five days every two years to two weeks every four years, according to the Taiwanese public broadcaster.

Extending compulsory service to one year would be likely to win public support, according to a recent poll by the Taiwan Public Opinion Foundation, which revealed last week that 75.9% of respondents said they should be extended to one year to improve Taiwan’s defenses against the Chinese. aggression.

The debate includes growing calls for improved civilian preparedness in the areas of emergency response, hostile first aid and guerrilla warfare. The government said it would prepare civilian manuals on evacuation and response drills, and on Wednesday Chiu announced that the annual civilian emergency drills in May – which typically test earthquake responses – would include a simulated missile attack.

Taiwan’s presidential office told Reuters the defense ministry was considering everyone’s views, but nothing had been decided. He added that the content of the training needed to be reformed to better meet the needs of modern warfare.

Additional reports by Chi Hu Lin.

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