Taiwan eyes record defense budget

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AFP) — Taiwan announced plans for a record increase to its defense budget on Thursday after huge military drills by China earlier this month sent tensions between the two to their highest in decades.

Taipei has proposed a defense budget of 415.1 billion Taiwan dollars (US$13.7 billion) for next year, up 13 percent year-on-year, pending parliamentary approval.

An additional special budget will also be created specifically to acquire new fighter jets and other projects to boost naval and air capabilities, the top budgeting agency said in a statement.

“To protect national security, the overall defense budget for next year will reach Tw$586.3 billion to a record high,” a cabinet spokesperson quoted Premier Su Tseng-chang as saying.

Taiwan lives under constant threat of invasion by China, which claims the democratic island as part of its territory to be seized one day — by force if necessary.

Beijing’s saber-rattling has grown more pronounced under President Xi Jinping, China’s most assertive leader in a generation.

The bolstered military budget was unveiled after Beijing staged unprecedented exercises around Taiwan in retaliation for US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taipei earlier this month.

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