As tensions worsen between China and Taiwan the past weeks, the latter's defense minister sought to tap the patriotism of their country's youth to join the military and be prepared to defend their nation if need arises.
The call was made today after Chinese military aircraft came near the island on Saturday. It was already the second time over the past month that such a Chinese drill happened. The weekend incident involved 10 Chinese aircraft passing through the Miyako Strait in Japan's Okinawa chain as well as the Bashi Channel located south of Taiwan.
The Chinese planes did not technically enter Taiwan's airspace and authorities in Taipei opted not to reveal how close the aircraft came to the island.
Taiwan's defense minister Feng Shih-kuan stated that the timing of such air drill of China may just be a matter of coincidence, coming as it does, notwithstanding, on the heels of controversies following Taiwan president Tsang Ing-wen's call with U.S. President-elect Donald Trump that angered Beijing. Still, Feng did not rule out the political significance of the said drill, as he underscored that Taiwan is always at risk of military threat.
Taiwan's fear of outside threat may not be such an exaggeration, after all. According to Feng, China has 1,500 missiles aimed at the island. Beijing insists on regarding Taiwan as part of China's territory and has been vocal of its intentions to bring back the island to its fold, ready to use military force if needed.
Taiwan's vulnerability to attacks and hostilities from China or elsewhere makes it imperative for the nation to beef up its military forces. To date it has 200,000 troops, merely a fraction of China's overwhelming might of a 2.3 million-strong army. Feng believes Taiwan's youth must step up given the challenges confronting their country and sign up for the military.
At present, Taiwan has a one-year compulsory conscription for its military recruitment. It has been planning to shift to voluntary service through several efforts. But such attempts to end the compulsory conscription have failed due to insufficient recruitment. The voluntary mode of recruitment would have started by 2017, but was pushed back again to 2018.
Trump has said in an interview with Fox News on Sunday that China should not be dictating the U.S. on such matters as taking calls from foreign governments, and also clarified that it would have been disrespectful of him to refuse to accept Taiwan's call. Both Trump and Taiwan's side specified that the call between the two leaders was merely congratulatory in nature, following Trump's victory in the U.S. presidential election. Trump also said that he can also review and drop the " One China" policy the U.S. currently adheres to with Beijing.
China's propaganda media today came out with a scathing reaction to Trump's Fox interview, and unloaded insults and threats against the incoming President. The Chinese media called Trump " ignorant of diplomacy as a child", and threatened that should U.S. continue to support Taiwan's quest for independence and intensifies its arms sales to the island, China will be ready to " aid forces hostile to the U.S." in retaliation.