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Window of opportunity for defense autonomy: ex-vice defense chief
【Politics】2018-05-10  16:33:55
Kaohsiung, May 10 (CNA) The period from 2020 to 2035 is a window of opportunity for Taiwan to beef up its defense capabilities before China's military is fully modernized, a former vice defense chief said Thursday.

Chen Yeong-kang (陳永康), who served as vice defense minister from March 2015 to May 2016 during the previous Kuomintang administration, told CNA that according to Chinese state media reports, during a Chinese military exercise at the Zhurihe training base in Inner Mongolia in July 2017, about 40 percent of the military vehicles featured in the drill were new and modern ones.

It is expected that the People's Liberation Army (PLA) will become a fully modernized force by 2035, said Chen.

According to a goal announced by Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) at the 19th Party Congress in October 2017, by 2020, the PLA will have achieved basic mechanization and will have made significant progress in using information technology and will have elevated its strategic ability.

By 2035, it will have become a modernized force and by 2050, will have become a world-class military.

Therefore, according to Chen, Taiwan has to make the best use of the gap between 2020 and 2035. During the 15-year period, the armed forces need to speed up efforts to push forward its indigenous aircraft, vessel and submarine programs, because they are vital to achieving the goal of defense autonomy.

Only by doing so can the armed forces be ready for the upgraded military prowess of the PLA after 2035, he stressed.

Chen made the comments on the sidelines of an inaugural Taiwan-United States Defense Business Forum held in Kaohsiung.

Chen is currently a board member of National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology (NCSIST), Taiwan's top military research institute.

The one-day event was part of the annual U.S.-Taiwan Defense Industry Conference previously held every year in the U.S. since 2002, an annual platform for dialogue on Taiwan's national security needs, weapons procurement and defense cooperation with the U.S.

Meanwhile, speaking during the same forum, Rupert Hammond-Chambers, president of the U.S.-Taiwan Business Council, a co-organizer of the event, reiterated U.S. concern that Taiwan needs to increase its defense budget in the face of the growing threat from China.

He noted that U.S. President Donald Trump has repeatedly said that U.S. friends and allies around the world should increase their military spending, an issue Taiwan should take seriously.

The country's annual defense spending currently stands at around 2 percent of gross domestic product, or NT$321.7 billion (US$10.5 billion), and President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) promised earlier this year to increase the defense spending every year to meet the growing military threat from Beijing.

(By Joseph Yeh)
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