Taiwan to Cut 9,200 Troops as China Ties Warm

DEFENSE NEWS/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Taiwan plans to slash the number of its troops by 9,200 this year amid warming ties with China, but the cut will be offset by more advanced weaponry, an official said March 7.

The reduction is part of a five-year plan aimed at trimming the size of Taiwan’s armed forces by 60,000, or more than 20 percent from the present level of 275,000 troops.

But the defense ministry said the island’s defensive capabilities would not be undermined as it seeks more high-tech and powerful weapons.

“The era of maintaining a huge number of forces has gone. Defense capability is no longer determined by the number of troops,” the ministry’s acting spokesman Lo Shau-ho told AFP.

Taiwan’s relatively large army is a legacy of decades of tensions with China, which still regards the island as part of its territory since the two sides split at the end of a civil war in 1949.

However, ties have improved dramatically since Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou of the China-friendly Kuomintang party came to power in 2008 promising to boost cross-strait trade and tourism.

China’s own military budget is set to rise nearly 13 percent to 601.1 billion yuan ($91.7 billion) this year, officials said March 4, while stressing that the mainland wants to modernize its armed forces for defensive duties.

But China’s build-up is widely seen by analysts as geared in large part at reclaiming Taiwan. Taiwanese experts say China has more than 1,600 missiles aimed at the self-ruled island.

Despite the easing of tensions with Taiwan’s giant neighbor, Ma says the island needs to maintain sufficient self-defense while pressing for dialogue with Beijing.

In January 2010, the U.S. government announced a weapons package for Taiwan that includes Patriot missiles, Black Hawk helicopters and equipment for Taiwan’s F-16 fleet, but no submarines or new fighter aircraft.

Beijing reacted angrily to the arms deal, saying it would cut military and security contacts with the United States. But Ma’s government continues to press Washington for an improved version of the F-16 fighter.

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Posted by pilotpaul on Mar 8 2011. Filed under World. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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