Taiwan extends mandatory military service amid rising China threat

Taiwan Defense
FILE – In this Sept. 15, 2021, file photo released by the Taiwan Presidential Office, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, center, speaks with military personnel near aircraft parked on a highway in Jiadong, Taiwan. Taiwan’s Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng said that Taiwan must defend itself Thursday morning, Oct. 28, 2021 and could not completely depend on others, after the island’s President said she had faith the U.S. would defend the island if China made a move. Tsai said in an interview aired Thursday with CNN that she had faith the U.S. would help defend Taiwan if China made a move on the island. (Taiwan Presidential Office via AP, File) AP

Taiwan extends mandatory military service amid rising China threat

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The mandatory military service in Taiwan has been extended, President Tsai Ing-wen announced on Tuesday.

Starting in 2024, men born after 2005 will be required to serve for a full year, while those born before then will maintain the four-month mandatory service minimum under a revamped training program. Tsai made the change due to the rising threat from China.

“No one wants war,” she explained. “This is true of Taiwan’s government and people, and the global community, but peace does not come from the sky, and Taiwan is at the front lines of the expansion of authoritarianism.”

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The Chinese Communist Party views Taiwan as a part of its country, while the island of roughly 24 million people is self-governing and claimed its independence. The U.S. has recognized China’s claim to Taiwan, but does not support any unilateral change in the status. Over the course of the last year, China has demonstrated aggressive military maneuvers, including sending fighter planes and navy vessels toward Taiwan.

Only roughly 10% of Taiwan’s 188,000-person military are serving their mandatory sentence, while the other 90% voluntarily enlisted or continued serving, according to NPR. The Taiwanese government shortened the mandatory military service from a year to four months back in 2018, CNN reported.

In mid-November, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Mark Milley called Chinese leader Xi Jinping a “rational actor” and said he likely views invading Taiwan right now as “an excessive amount of risk,” though U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said a month earlier that Xi had made a “fundamental decision” that the status quo of Taiwan’s self-governance was “no longer acceptable” and that the Chinese were “determined to pursue reunification on a much faster timeline.”

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China frequently uses its military resources to send a message after what officials consider a challenge on their claim on Taiwan.

Over the weekend, China sent 47 aircraft across the median line of the Taiwan Strait, the largest incursion in months.

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