TAIWAN: Taiwan proposed $19 billion as defence spending for 2023 on Thursday, a double-digit increase in 2022 that entailed funds for new state-of-the-art fighter jets, weeks after China staged its military drills near the Taiwan Strait to threaten Taiwan over issues of territorial sovereignty.
China carried out its most despicable war games around the democratically governed island nation after a controversial visit this month to Taipei by US Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Beijing was enraged over the matter, perceiving it as US interference in China’s internal affairs.
The overall proposed defence budget by President Tsai Ing-wen’s Cabinet sets a 13.9% year-on-year increase to a record T$586.3 billion ($19.41 billion).
The budget includes an additional T$108.3 billion in spending for fighter jets and other military equipment, as well as other “special funds” for the defence ministry. However, a statement from the Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics did not provide a breakdown of specifics about the fund allotment.
The double-digit increase in 2022 marks a sharp increase as opposed to the island’s defence spending growth in the last decade; yearly growth has been below 4% since 2017. This planned spending is on record, the sixth hike in the country’s annual defence spending since 2017.
As per Statistics department minister, Chu Tzer-ming, most of these funds will be allocated to operational costs.
“We always give safety and national security the top priority… that’s why (the budget for) operational costs rise greatly,” Chu said, indicating that maximum expenditure is incurred over fuel and maintenance for aircraft and ships deployed to counter Chinese military operations near Taiwan.
The island last year announced an additional defence budget of $8.69 billion by 2026, which came on top of its yearly military spending, mostly on naval armament, including missiles and warships.
Although Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen has made several diligent efforts to arm the nation to its extreme within its financial limits, its armed forces fall flat in front of China, which mobilizes its military capacity with stealthy fighters and aircraft carriers.
Taiwan has long maintained its stance on political and territorial sovereignty: that Taiwan is a democratic country of its own and the power to decide its administration lies in the hands of the people, not China, who boldly claims that Taiwan is a part of the mainland, and inadvertently, under Chinese control.
Meeting Japanese academic delegates at her office on Thursday, Tsai reiterated that the Taiwanese determination to protect and uphold their sovereignty, freedom and democracy would not change “due to pressure or threats”.
“At the same time, as a responsible member of the international community, Taiwan will not provoke incidents nor escalate conflicts,” Tsai said, in comments made live on her social media pages.
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