MELBOURNE, Australia — Taiwan is continuing efforts to develop asymmetrical defense capabilities as it tries to offset the increasing gap between its own forces and China’s military strength, according to its newly released defense report.
Taiwan accuses China of building up its capabilities to mount a multidomain offensive against the island. Taiwan’s National Defense Report for 2021, which was released last week in Chinese and English, said Beijing’s anti-access, area denial campaign to prevent outside assistance forces from reaching the island is nearly complete.
The report also outlined how Taiwan will improve its reserve forces — following reports of poor training and equipping of these units — and better integrate them with the country’s regular forces in the event of an invasion from China.
Taiwan is in the midst of efforts to transform its military into a combined arms force with capabilities to work together across domains. One of the key planks of this effort is the restructuring of its military into regional commands with forces from all three main services under each command.
The regional commands would mount an asymmetric defense of Taiwan during war. China views the self-ruling island as a rogue province, and Taiwan seeks to disrupt a potential future invasion before forces make landfall or even while an invasion force is assembling.
The strategy seeks to use the natural barrier of the Taiwan Strait as a force multiplier, with Taiwan’s military continuing to increase its weapons ranges to put Chinese airfields, ports and assembly areas that are directly across the waterway within their reach, thereby forcing Chinese troops to assemble farther away, lengthening their sea transit.
The U.S. cleared Taiwan to acquire ground-launched Boeing RGM-84 Harpoon missiles, and the Asian nation is working on developing a range of standoff land-attack and anti-ship missiles. These include the air-launched Wan Chien land-attack weapon; the ship- and ground-launched Hsiung Feng II, IIE and III anti-ship missiles; and short range ballistic missiles.
Taiwan’s reserve forces are manned by former conscripts who finished their full-time military service. Those forces were previously reported as badly trained, underfunded and poorly equipped.
The report reiterated that Taiwan’s reserve forces will operate with regular forces both in peacetime and wartime, and that the country will realign reserve unit organizations in order to enhance the effectiveness of joint command and control.
These efforts come as the Taiwanese Army stood up two additional infantry brigades and a reserve force training center this year, which is to be followed by three more infantry brigades and two more reserve force training centers by 2024.
The Defense Ministry also changes its authority to call up reserve forces, changing the time frame from the previous five to seven days every two years to the current 14 days annually.
Taiwan pledged to better equip its reserve forces by making the standard equal to that of regular forces. This will be done by evenly distributing equipment between the two groups, withdrawing obsolete equipment currently in reserve inventories, transferring excess equipment from regular units, repairing and retrofitting the current inventory, and increasing materiel acquisition.
Mike Yeo is the Asia correspondent for Defense News. He wrote his first defense-related magazine article in 1998 before pursuing an aerospace engineering degree at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Australia. Following a stint in engineering, he became a freelance defense reporter in 2013 and has written for several media outlets.