TAIPEI (Reuters): Taiwan will spend an extra T$94.3 billion ($2.97 billion) to buy weapons next year including fighter jets to bolster its defences, the government said on Thursday.
China, which views democratically governed Taiwan as its own territory, has ramped up military and political pressure over the past three years to assert those claims, which Taipei strongly rejects.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen already announced on Monday that overall proposed defence spending for 2024 would be set at T$606.8 billion, a 3.5% increase from the previous year.
About half of the T$94.3 billion additional spend would be used to purchase fighter jets, and the remainder will go into bolstering naval defences, the government’s statistics department said after a cabinet meeting to discuss the budget.
The United States on Wednesday approved a possible $500 million sale to Taiwan of infrared search and track systems for F-16 fighter jets, as well as other equipment.
Taiwan deputy defence minister Po Horng-huei told reporters the search and tracking systems were the same as those used by F-35 and F-22 fighters, among the most advanced the United States operates.
“These will help to target the J-20 stealth fighter over the Taiwan Strait in the future,” Po said, referring to the new generation of Chinese jets.
It will allow Taiwan to more effectively deter Chinese air activity, he added.
The budget will have to be approved by parliament, where Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party has a majority. Defence spending for next year will amount to 2.5% of Taiwan’s GDP.
Tsai has overseen a military modernisation programme to make Taiwan’s armed forces better able to face China, including upgrading its fleet of F-16 fighter jets and developing its own submarines.
Tsai said on Monday the first prototype indigenous submarine was expected to be unveiled next month as scheduled.
Taiwan has been converting 141 F-16A/B jets into the F-16V type and has ordered 66 new F-16Vs, which have advanced avionics, weapons and radar systems to better face down the Chinese air force, including its J-20 stealth fighters.