"Taiwan Defence & Security Report Q3 2013" Published
New Defense research report from Business Monitor International is now available from Fast Market Research
[UKPRwire, Mon Sep 09 2013] Relations between Taiwan and the mainland are at an all-time high and should remain stable, at least until the end of President Ma Ying-jeou's term of office in 2016. Ma has established cordial relations with Beijing, which is in turn preoccupied with a range of other domestic and foreign issues. China's leadership handover, with Xi Jinping now installed as president, has not altered the mainland's Taiwan policy. Even the dispute between China and Japan over the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands - which Taiwan also claims - has seen very little Taiwanese involvement, with the island relegated to the side-lines of the debate.
However, Ma's growing domestic unpopularity could see a shift in Taiwan's policy towards the mainland. Ma has regularly been accused of being too soft on China and of neglecting national defence, and this criticism may sting his administration into taking firmer action. Ma has already increased defence spending, though only after allowing it to decline for several years prior.
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In any case, Taiwan's military continues to be almost exclusively focused on defending the island against Chinese aggression. In 2013, it has brought into service some new systems that should prove very helpful in that regard. In particular, a new early-warning radar system - one of the most powerful in the world - became operational in February; it will enable the Taiwanese to monitor activities deep into Chinese territory. A new land-attack cruise missile (LACM) is also now operational, while a longer-range LACM is reportedly under development. These weapons signify a shift in posture for the Taiwanese military, which would now be able to strike targets on the mainland if the island were ever to be attacked. Taiwan has also ordered the most advanced variant of the Apache helicopter gunship, the AH-64E Apache Guardian.
However, Taiwan's procurement options remain limited. Its defence budget stands at U$10.6bn for 2013, and costly upgrade programmes for its fleets of F-16 and IDF fighters are currently monopolising equipment funds. This could make the desired procurements of F-35 stealth fighters and new submarines unattainable for at least the next few years.
As well as an equipment crisis in certain areas, the Taiwanese military is also facing a potential personnel crisis. The armed forces are currently downsizing and aim to phase out conscription by 2015. However, volunteer recruitment targets are being badly missed, meaning that the armed forces will either have to continue with conscription for longer than expected, or accept personnel shortages until recruitment rates are achieved.
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