by WorldTribune Staff, November 2, 2022
In 1990, Taiwan cut mandatory service for its military draftees from three to two years. It was reduced to one year in 2008. In 2017, the self-governing island went to an all-volunteer force and conscripts were only required to serve four months.
In just three years time, Taiwan's active-duty military has decreased from 275,000 to 165,000 personnel.
China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) is 2 million-strong.
"Officials and analysts in the United States – an informal ally and major arms supplier of Taiwan – have repeatedly called for the self-governed island to extend its existing four-month mandatory conscription to at least one year, saying the training conscripts currently receive would prove far from adequate in the event of conflict with Beijing," Lawrence Chung wrote in an Oct. 30 analysis
for the South China Morning Post.
Former secretary of defense Mark Esper
during a visit to Taiwan in July said, “I believe that Taiwan needs to lengthen and toughen its conscription. That means to have young Taiwanese boys and girls serve at least one year if not longer in their nation’s military.”
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen has expressed interest in extending the service of military personnel, especially after Beijing staged unprecedented live-fire drills around Taiwan in early August in response to a visit to Taipei by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, which the communist regime in Beijing considered a violation of its sovereignty and a breach of the U.S. one-China policy.
Even if Taiwan were to significantly increase its number of conscripts, it would still be woefully unprepared for a war with communist China, analysts say.
As threats from China to retake Taiwan by any means necessary increase, Taiwanese officials are now considering increasing the conscription period.
But, for the service to become effective, the island’s military must greatly improve the training of conscripts rather than just focusing on extension for extension’s sake, Taiwan defense analysts say.
Taiwanese Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng, announced last month that the Tsai government would make an announcement on extending mandatory military service by the end of this year.
There are roughly 40,000 conscripts doing their mandatory training at any given time.
"In extending the service to one year or more, the military must first address issues like whether there are enough training resources, including locations, facilities, and instructors,” said Chieh Chung, a senior security researcher at the National Policy Foundation, a think tank affiliated with the main opposition Kuomintang party.
Chen Yueh-ting, a 22-year-old who works as an assistant in an accountant’s office, told the South China Morning Post that he had already forgotten most of the things he was taught during his four months of service.
“Actually, I was supposed to learn basic combat training in the first eight weeks and specialized training in the last eight weeks, but what I and my comrades were regularly doing was cleaning bathrooms, sweeping floors or clearing away fallen leaves,” he said.
Chen said he had fewer than 10 target-shooting sessions during his four months in training. In grenade-throwing practice, Chen said conscripts were told most of the time to hurl badminton shuttles or swing wet towels to mimic the action because there were not enough grenades available."
Andrew Yang, a former Taiwanese defense minister, told the South China Morning Post previous policies that reduced troop numbers and slashed mandatory military service to four months had seen the military axe a number of units and personnel, and shed itself of land and resources to fit in with a leaner force.
“There is a need to redesign the entire training system, including rearranging the training for the conscripts and getting experienced instructors to train them,” he said.
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