Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen announced on Tuesday (December 27) the policy of military service reform, including the extension of compulsory service from the current four months to one year. .
In the future, the military structure of the national army will be composed of volunteer service as the “main combat force” and compulsory service as the standing “garrison force”. The Ministry of National Defense will introduce the latest modular training model of the U.S. military, and at the same time improve the treatment of conscripts. The salary will be greatly increased from the current NT$6,500 per month to NT$26,307, which is close to the basic salary.
Tsai Ing-wen was interviewed by the media for the first time in two years. At the press conference on “Strengthening the National Defense Force Structure Adjustment Plan”, she first mentioned that the Russo-Ukrainian War has exceeded 300 days. After the military exercise in August, the threat to Taiwan became more obvious. Taiwan is on the front line of authoritarian expansion and must strengthen its national defense capabilities.
She said that peace does not fall from the sky, and quoted former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill as saying that “after humiliation, we still have to face war”, emphasizing that only by preparing for war can we avoid war, and only by being able to fight can we stop war. “As long as Taiwan is strong enough, young people will not have to go to the battlefield.” She also admitted that this is an “incredibly difficult decision”, but as the president and commander-in-chief, she has the responsibility to improve national defense capabilities.
Tsai Ing-wen denies US pressure
The outbreak of the Russia-Ukraine war this year has aroused concerns about “Ukraine today, Taiwan tomorrow”. After the US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan in August, China launched large-scale military exercises in the sea and air around Taiwan for several consecutive days, and multiple ballistic missiles even flew over Taiwan. over Taipei. For the first time at the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, “resolutely oppose and contain ‘Taiwan independence'” was included in the party constitution. Some analysts believe that China may attack Taiwan within five years. These factors have made the strength of the national army attract attention at home and abroad.
When former U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper led a delegation from the Atlantic Council to Taiwan in July this year, he put forward four proposals for Taiwan’s defense policy, including extending compulsory service to one year.
There have been many rumors this year that Taiwan will extend its military service, but both the Presidential Office and the Ministry of National Defense have denied it. In early December, the Ministry of National Defense confirmed that the extension of military service will be announced before the end of the year.
“Liberty Times” quoted sources as saying that the government has convened cross-ministerial committees to discuss the relevant plan several times, and discussed the “nine in one” local elections at least three or four times, and the meeting was still held until the night before the announcement.
When asked at a press conference whether there was pressure from the United States to extend military service, Tsai Ing-wen unequivocally denied it, saying that internal discussions had begun in 2020, with the National Security Council and the Ministry of National Defense working together, and discussions had been going on for some time. When asked if she had considered the pressure of the election, Tsai Ing-wen said again that it was a very difficult decision.
Su Ziyun, a researcher at the Taiwan National Security Research Institute, a think tank of Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense, told BBC Chinese that the United States has never intervened in Taiwan’s internal affairs. That’s it.”
He emphasized that the defense department “has been preparing for a long time” to extend military service. At present, the military threats facing Taiwan have increased, and the decrease in birth rate has led to the reduction of Taiwan’s military strength. At this time, extending compulsory service is necessary. “Military is a scientific issue, not political issues”.
Song Wendi, a political scientist at the Australian National University, told BBC Chinese that through this politically difficult decision, Taiwan has demonstrated to the international community its determination to “help others to help themselves” and is willing to pay for their own security. It can justify their continued efforts to support Taiwan.
The American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) issued a statement on Facebook at night to welcome Taiwan’s conscription reform, which “demonstrates Taiwan’s commitment to self-defense and strengthens its deterrence capabilities.” The spokesperson stated that the United States will continue to assist Taiwan in maintaining sufficient self-defense capabilities in accordance with the “Taiwan Relations Act” and the “One China Policy” commitments. It reiterates its support for the peaceful resolution of cross-strait issues and opposes any change in the status quo.
Will it impact the 2024 general election?
Taiwanese society has a high degree of consensus on extending military service, but there are significant generational differences. According to a poll released by the Taiwan Public Opinion Foundation on December 20, 73.2% of the overall respondents agreed to extend military service for one year, while 17.6% disagreed. However, only 35.6% of respondents aged 20 to 24 agreed and 37.2% disagreed.
The opposition KMT put forward the slogan “Vote for the DPP, Youth Go to the Battlefield” during the “nine-in-one” local elections in November. Some analysts believe that the extension of military service may harm the DPP’s support rate and even affect the 2024 presidential election.
Qiu Shiyi, a professor of political science at Tunghai University, told BBC Chinese that the extension of military service may not offend young voters. What young people hate is meaningless military service, but after the reform, it is completely different, and there is no such serious formalism as before.
Scholar Song Wendi pointed out that the DPP’s national defense reform bill will be submitted to the Legislative Yuan for approval, and all political parties will face pressure to express their views publicly at that time. “As long as all major political parties agree, this national defense reform will not have too much impact on the 2024 presidential election. influences”.
Just before Tsai Ing-wen announced the plan, the Kuomintang took the lead in holding a press conference to express its support for military service reform. Chairman Zhu Lilun convened the Party Central Committee, think tanks, and the Legislative Yuan party group to discuss and propose three major projects and seven packages, requiring improvement of service content and quality, and rebuilding the military A sense of honor, including changing the September 3 Soldiers’ Day to a “National Respect for the Army Day” that is a national holiday.
Taiwan’s compulsory service has often been criticized in the past for lack of solid training and a waste of time. Tsai Ing-wen said that she has instructed the National Security Council and the Ministry of National Defense to make adjustments, hoping that under the new system, “the year of serving as a soldier will not be a wasted year.”
In the future, compulsory service training will be reformed in three aspects of “practical, quantitative, and new”, including actual combat training, extended training time and new weapons, etc., and the introduction of the latest modular training mode of the US military. For example, spear training will be upgraded to close combat Combat training, and increase the training of new weapons such as needle missiles, kestrel missiles, and drones. The number of shots fired during the full service period is not less than 800 rounds.
Lin Yingyou, an assistant professor at the Institute of Strategy at Tamkang University, pointed out to BBC Chinese that the reform of military service is “the first step” to enable the outdated training model of the national army to keep up with the changes in new weapons. “People have to cooperate with weapons.”
However, he believes that this reform failed to answer the question of the overall force structure. Once the CCP invades Taiwan, it will carry out a naval blockade and missile attack. How should the national army prioritize manpower in these areas. “Maritime traffic is very important. Oil and gas come from the sea. We need more large ships and troops. If missiles bomb the airport, many people will be needed to repair the runway. On the contrary, the riflemen are at a later stage of the battle. These are all necessary Comprehensive strategic thinking is not something that can be done just by being there.”
Review Taiwan Military Service
After the Republic of China government moved to Taiwan in 1949, the conscription system was implemented. At that time, the army served for two years and the navy and air force for three years. In 1967, Army service was changed to two years plus one year of impromptu call. In 1987, the service period of the Navy and Air Force was shortened to two years, and only the Marine Corps remained for three years. Until 1990, the uniform compulsory service period was two years.
After the democratization of Taiwan, the military service system became a topic in the election. In 2000, when Chen Shui-bian was in power, the Ministry of National Defense began to plan the “recruitment system”. At the same time, the compulsory service period was shortened to ten months a year and six months a year. reduced to one year.
In May 2008, after Ma Ying-jeou came to power, he promoted the “full recruitment”. The recruitment effect was not as good as expected, but he still established a system of voluntary service and compulsory service as a supplement. From 2016 onwards, four-month drafts were implemented for draftees born after 1994. “Military training service”.
After Tsai Ing-wen took office in 2016, she continued to adopt the “parallel recruitment” system, leaving only four months of military training for compulsory service. By 2022, she announced the resumption of one-year military service.
Compared with other conscription countries, South Korea’s service period is at least 18 months, Singapore’s is two years, and Israel’s men and women serve three years and two years respectively.