By KOICHIRO ISHIDA/ Correspondent
October 22, 2020 at 15:52 JST
TAIPEI--Military tensions are intensifying here as Chinese military aircraft have made a record number of intrusions over the median line in the Taiwan Strait.
Along with the number of crossings hitting the highest level in the past 30 years, some of the most advanced Chinese aircraft have been among those flying close to Taiwan.
According to Taiwan media, the administration of President Tsai Ing-wen on Oct. 7 explained to the Legislative Yuan a plan to establish a new defense mobilization administration in January 2022 as part of a major military reorganization. The new organ would be designed to prepare for military conflict in the Taiwan Strait.
Under Taiwan’s military draft system, a change was made in 2018 to reduce the mandatory period of military service from one year to four months.
Currently, those who leave the military still receive training for eight years as a reservist. But in 2022, that training will be extended to 15 years after a soldier leaves the military.
The objective of the change is to ensure adequate military manpower.
Taiwan's military now has about 210,000 active troops, but the change for reservists will increase the figure to about 500,000.
China's increasing military provocations are a major reason behind the changes.
A total of 49 Chinese military aircraft have crossed the median line so far this year, according to an explanation to the Legislative Yuan by National Defense Ministry officials.
More than 200 Chinese military aircraft have entered Taiwan’s air defense identification zone to the southwest of the island. More than 1,000 Chinese naval ships have also been spotted navigating in waters near Taiwan.
“Not only has the frequency increased, but the types of aircraft crossing the line have also become more varied," said Chang Yen-ting, a retired lieutenant general in the Taiwan Air Force, who now teaches at the Political Warfare College of Taiwan’s National Defense University. "Such action is to prepare for actual warfare.”
National Defense Ministry officials said they have confirmed spotting a wide range of Chinese military aircraft, including the most advanced Jian-16 fighter jet and the Yun-8 intelligence-gathering aircraft.
“China has a sense of crisis over the recent moves by Taiwanese authorities to get closer to the United States,” Chang said.
The increased tension has also led to a greater number of visits by Tsai to inspect and encourage Taiwan's military personnel.
Tsai has visited Taiwan troops on 40 days so far this year, already exceeding the 29 days she spent in 2019 attending military ceremonies or inspecting troops of the three branches of Taiwan's military, according to records released by the Office of the President regarding Tsai’s activities in 2020.
Such visits are also intended to calm public opinion in Taiwan, analysts said.
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