Taiwan Extends Compulsory Military Service Amid Rising China Threat

Taiwan will extend its mandatory military service requirement from four months to one year beginning in 2024, President Tsai Ing-wen announced Tuesday. 

The extension comes amid increased provocations and threats from China in the past year. On Sunday, China sent 71 warplanes around Taiwan in what the People’s Liberation Army called a “strike drill,” in response to “provocations” and “collusion” between Taiwan and the United States. 

“China’s expansion [of military aggression] continues to impact the international order, threatens regional peace and stability, and affects cross-strait relations,” Tsai said. “The existing system does not meet combat readiness requirements.”

The extension is a major shift in Taiwanese policy since the 1990s, which saw the requirement shrink from three years to one year to 10 months. The requirement decreased to four months in 2013, with the first five weeks in basic training. 

“This is an extremely difficult decision, but as president, as the head of military forces, it is my unavoidable duty to defend national interests and our democratic way of life,” Tsai continued. “Nobody wants war. The Taiwanese government and its people do not want it, nor does the international community want it. But peace does not fall from the sky,” she said.

More advanced military readiness training will also be implemented, according to Tsai. This advanced training will be partially modeled off of elements of the U.S. military and other advanced militaries, the BBC noted. Tsai said that current Taiwanese defenses are not equipped to defend against increased aggression from China. 

Taiwan has been continuously provoked by China, especially since the election of Tsai, whose Democratic Progressive Party favors remaining independent from the communist country. Following Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) trip to Taiwan in August, China employed numerous provocative measures, including sending Chinese planes and ships in and near the Taiwan strait, with 21 of them entering Taiwan’s air defense zone.

In a conversation with former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and former Secretary of Defense James Mattis in October, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, “there has been a change in approach from Beijing toward Taiwan in recent years.” He continued, saying China is “pursu[ing] unification on a much faster timeline.” 

The extension of service comes after two years of discussions and the urging of American military analysts, but Tsai denied American pressure led to the change, according to The Wall Street Journal. While Taiwan has been moving towards an all-volunteer force, difficulty recruiting meant that conscription was still necessary, the outlet noted. 

At the Chinese Communist Party Congress in October, President Xi called for “reunification” with Taiwan and even claimed the communist nation is willing to use force to achieve it, saying they “reserve the option of taking all measures necessary,” The Daily Wire previously reported.  

“The wheels of history are rolling on towards China’s reunification and the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation,” Xi said in his opening address at the party congress. “Complete reunification of our country must be realized.”

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