|The Ray Ting-2000 during a military parade in 2011|
Low spending on national defense as well as cuts in projected weapons acquisition, are signs that the armed forces are moving away from a combat-oriented to a relief-oriented military role and that detente in the Taiwan Strait is “unilateral,” critics of President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration have said.
During the presidential campaign in 2008, Ma vowed to bring spending on national defense to 3 percent of GDP, a pledge that he has not met in his four years in office. The proposed national defense budget for next year has been set at NT$314.15 billion (US$10.59 billion), lower than the NT$317.2 billion for this year.
Beyond a failure to meet the target defense spending, appropriations for next year also indicate a shift away from combat readiness to operations other than war, predominantly relief operations, reflecting Ma’s 2009 announcement that natural catastrophes were now Taiwan’s “No. 1 enemy.” The Chinese-language United Daily News reported on Sunday that initial plans by the army to procure 57 domestically produced Ray Ting-2000 (“Thunder 2000”) multiple rocket launchers for a total of NT$14.45 billion had been slashed by one-quarter in next year’s budget. According to the report, the Ministry of National Defense ordered in July last year that production be dropped to 43 launch vehicles, which are to be divided into three battalions. The budget for the acquisition has reportedly been cut to NT$13.22 billion.
My article, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here.