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Taiwan's military not suited to defend against Chinese invasion: RAND

Report criticizes Taiwan's prioritization of legacy systems, weapons that can strike China

Taiwanese soldiers train in the Han Kuang exercises. (Ministry of National Defense photo)

Taiwanese soldiers train in the Han Kuang exercises. (Ministry of National Defense photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan can and should do more to field forces capable of countering an invasion by China, according to a new report released by a leading U.S. security research institute.

“Taiwan’s leaders may doubt that the (People’s Liberation Army) PLA will actually invade, just as the leaders of Ukraine doubted Russia would invade in early 2022, but an invasion poses an existential risk to Taiwan,” according to the report released by the RAND Corporation on Wednesday (July 26).

The report says that if China increases efforts to incorporate Taiwan into its political system, Taiwan’s leaders generally believe that this will be attempted through economic coercion rather than military action. The 240-page report also states that Taiwan does not spend enough on defense, and its money is largely spent on “antiquated systems.”

“Over the past 15 years, analysts have published many urgent recommendations to improve Taiwan’s defense outlook, as has the Taiwan Ministry of National Defense. The sense of urgency stems from assessments of Taiwan’s legacy military, which for many reasons is not suited to defending against a major PLA assault,” the report reads. “Although many good ideas have been suggested, Taiwan continues to prioritize investment in legacy capabilities,” according to the report.

In addition, the report criticizes the prioritization by military and government officials in Taiwan of weapons that can strike China. “Some in Taiwan might be encouraged that some of their military forces contest (China’s incursions into Taiwan’s airspace), but if, over time, these incursions never stop, the comfort provided by these contestations will diminish,” the report says.

Alex Velez-Green, a former U.S. security official and advisor at the conservative U.S. think tank the Heritage Foundation, called the assessment "devastating." “Bottom line, the U.S.A. should do everything possible to deter China. But Taiwan has to do its part—and it is not,” Velez-Green wrote on social media.

The report was published days before the Cabinet proposed a 7.5% increase in national defense spending. A total of NT$440 billion (US$14.04 billion) has been earmarked for the 2023 defense budget, while NT$534 billion will be spent on defense in 2024.

The U.S. also announced a US$345 million (NT$10.8 million) weapons aid package to Taiwan on Friday (July 28), and Congress authorized US$1 billion in emergency defense spending for Taiwan.