A US Pentagon official said on Tuesday that Taiwan’s recent increase in its defense budget was not enough to counter Beijing. The comments came from David Helvey, the acting assistant secretary of defense for East Asia, during the annual US-Taiwan Defense Industry Conference that was held virtually on Monday and Tuesday.
In August, Taiwan’s cabinet proposed an increase in military spending by $1.4 billion for the coming year, an increase of about 10 percent.
“These increases, while a step in the right direction, however, are insufficient to ensure that Taiwan can leverage its geography, advanced technology, workforce and patriotic population to channel Taiwan’s inherent advantages necessary for a resilient defense,” Helvey said.
Helvey said the US encouraged Taiwan to invest in a “large numbers of small capabilities” that would show China “an invasion or attack would not come without significant cost.” This means acquiring things like coastal defense cruise missiles and naval mines.
Since Washington severed diplomatic ties with Taipei in 1979, the US has sold weapons to Taiwan to discourage Beijing from forcibly reunifying the island with mainland China. The US is Taiwan’s top weapons supplier, and the island is a top customer, requesting more weapons from the US in the 2019 fiscal year than any other country.
Recent high-level visits to Taiwan from US officials sparked an increase in military flights by China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA). PLA warplanes were seen crossing the median line, an informal line in the Taiwan Strait that Beijing usually avoids crossing.
The region has also seen an increase in US military activity, including an uptick in flights from US spy planes. The US sent aircraft carriers into the South China Sea throughout the summer, another major flashpoint for US-China relations.