Russia's quick annexation of Crimea has underscored for Taiwan leaders the need to modernize its military. Taiwan has long sought to purchase new F-16 fighter jets. (Agence France-Presse)
WASHINGTON — Taiwan watched Russia’s invasion and annexation of Crimea from Ukraine very closely. After all, the island nation, which is claimed by China, has long feared Beijing might do the same thing.
“We learned a very important lesson that we have to modernize our military by spending [to] develop [weapons and equipment] ourselves or working closely with the Americans,” Andrew Hsia, Taiwan’s deputy defense minister, said Wednesday at a Center for a New American Security event in Washington.
Russia’s military faced no resistance from Ukrainian forces as they entered the Crimean peninsula and eventually took over Ukrainian military bases. Many of the Ukrainian air force’s fighter jets are not flyable, and the ones that are can have limited capabilities. The rest of Ukraine’s military also has dated equipment with limited capabilities.
Taiwan has had a standing request to purchase new Lockheed Martin F-16 fighters from the US; however, Washington has not approved the deal, instead offering upgrade Taiwan’s existing F-16s.
The George W. Bush administration in 2001 offered Taiwan submarines, but that deal never advanced.
Thirteen years later there is no “clear indication of how that will happen,” Hsia said Wednesday. “At this moment, I think Taiwan is developing, or trying to develop, our own indigenous submarine.
“I think people may have different thinking about submarines, so basically our request is that we should be able to sit down with the United States government to discuss … the system that is suitable for preventing war in Taiwan,” he continued.
Hsia said Taiwan spends about 2.5 percent of its gross domestic product on defense. He said the budget in past years has fallen short of the 3 percent mark desired by allies, particularly since the Defense Ministry has budgeted for weapons purchases that have not been approved by the US government. Money not spent on such items is returned to the treasury.
Still, Hsia stressed the need for Taiwan to receive support for the US.
“We’d … like to sit down with the American side to discuss what is the most adequate assistance that is suitable for the Taiwan Straight,” he said.■