Dec 27, 2022 - World

Taiwan extends mandatory military service as tensions with China persist

Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan’s president

Tsai Ing-wen during a news conference at the Presidential Palace in Taipei, Taiwan, on Dec. 27. Photo: Lam Yik Fei/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Taiwan will extend and reform its period of mandatory military service to one year as the country continues to contend with heightened tensions with China, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen announced at a press conference Tuesday.

Why it matters: Taiwan's current four-month mandatory military service program is no longer sufficient to meet the country's combat readiness "in terms of quantity and quality of training," Tsai said.

  • Tsai called the move an "incredibly difficult decision" but emphasized that it was necessary for the country's national security and "democratic way of life."

State of play: Starting in 2024, the military service will be extended to one year, with the change applying to all men born after Jan. 1, 2005.

  • The salary of draftees will also be quadrupled, from roughly $195 to more than $650 per month, per CNN.
  • Changes will also be made to make the program more rigorous, including training with new weapons such as javelin missiles and increasing the amount of live ammunition training, Tsai said.
  • Military service is currently optional for women in Taiwan, per the Washington Post.

What they're saying: "Not only in Europe, but also in Asia, China's expansion continues to impact the international order, threatens regional peace and stability, and affects cross-strait relations," Tsai said.

  • "No one wants war, neither the government and people of Taiwan nor the international community," she added.
  • "Peace will not fall from the sky," Tsai said, adding that "only by preparing for war can we avoid war, and only by being able to fight can we stop war."

The big picture: Tensions between China and Taiwan have been rife in 2022. After outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan in August, China responded with live-fire drills near Taiwan.

  • Tsai's announcement came days after China's military deployed dozens of planes across the median line of the Taiwan Strait.
  • The U.S. has been urging Taiwan to bulk up its defense capabilities for years, per the Financial Times.
  • “We welcome Taiwan’s recent announcement on conscription reform, which underscores Taiwan’s commitment to self-defense and strengthens deterrence," read a statement Tuesday from the American Institute in Taiwan, the de facto U.S. embassy.

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