TAIPEI: Taiwan announced on Tuesday an extension of compulsory military service from four months to one year, citing the threat of an increasingly hostile China.
Beijing considers democratic and self-governing Taiwan part of its territory, to be taken one day, by force if necessary, and the island lives in constant fear of a Chinese invasion.
Under President Xi Jinping, China’s slashing has intensified in recent years, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has heightened concerns in Taiwan that Beijing could act in the same way to annex the island.
“China’s intimidation and threats against Taiwan are becoming increasingly evident,” President Tsai Ing-wen told a news conference.
“No one wants war… but my countrymen, peace will not fall from the sky.”
“The current four-month military service is not enough to cope with the fast-paced and ever-changing situation,” she added.
“We have decided to restore one-year military service from 2024.”
The expanded requirement will apply to men born after Jan. 1, 2005, Tsai said.
Compulsory service was deeply unpopular in Taiwan, once a brutal military dictatorship that has since transformed into a progressive democracy.
His previous government had reduced mandatory military service from one year to four months in a bid to create a mostly volunteer force.
But a recent poll showed that more than three-quarters of Taiwanese audiences now think it’s too short.
The army also struggled to recruit and retain full-time personnel due to weak financial incentives.
Tsai described the extension as “an extremely difficult decision…to ensure the democratic way of life for our future generations.”
The prospect of a Chinese invasion is increasingly worrying Western nations and many of China’s neighbors.
Xi, China’s most authoritarian leader in decades, has made it clear that what he calls the “reunification” of Taiwan cannot be passed on to future generations.
Taiwan and China separated at the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949, and Tsai said being part of China was not acceptable to the islanders.
Taiwan is a mountainous island and would present a formidable challenge to an invasion force, but it is massively outnumbered with 89,000 ground forces to China’s one million, according to a Pentagon estimate released last month.
Beijing also has a huge advantage when it comes to military equipment.
Taiwan has stepped up training for reservists and increased purchases of fighter jets and anti-ship missiles to bolster its defenses. But experts said that was not enough.
Tuesday’s military service announcement came two days after Chinese military exercises near Taiwan, which took place in response to what Beijing called “provocations” and “collusion” between Washington and Taipei.

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