Bangkok Post

Tai­wan’s forces strain in China’s ‘war of at­tri­tion’

- Military · Warfare and Conflicts · Asian Politics · World Politics · Politics · Taiwan · China · Kaohsiung · Tsai Ing-wen · Beijing · United States of America · F-16 Fighting Falcon

>>KAOHSIUNG: Tai­wan Pres­i­dent Tsai Ing-wen vis­ited a low-key but crit­i­cal main­te­nance base for fighter jet en­gines yes­ter­day, of­fer­ing en­cour­age­ment as the Chi­nese-claimed is­land’s armed forces strain in the face of re­peated Chi­nese air force in­cur­sions.

This month alone, China’s drills have in­cluded its jets cross­ing the mid-line of the sen­si­tive Tai­wan Strait and ex­er­cis­ing near the Tai­wan-con­trolled Pratas Is­lands in the South China Sea.

Bei­jing re­gards Tai­wan as a way­ward prov­ince and has never re­nounced the use of force to bring the demo­cratic is­land un­der its con­trol.

Tai­wan’s air force has re­peat­edly scram­bled to in­ter­cept Chi­nese jets. Though they have not flown over main­land Tai­wan it­self, the flights have ramped up pres­sure, both fi­nan­cial and phys­i­cal, on Tai­wan’s air force to en­sure its air­craft are ready to go at any mo­ment.

Vis­it­ing the Gang­shan air base in southern Tai­wan’s Kaohsiung, Ms Tsai re­ceived a de­tailed ac­count of how the main­te­nance crew is mak­ing sure Tai­wan’s F-16 and other fight­ers are op­er­at­ing at peak per­for­mance.

She ap­peared slightly take n aback when told the cost of one small com­po­nent for the F-CK-1 Ching-kuo In­dige­nous De­fence Fighter was T$380,000 (410,000 baht).

Speak­ing later to sailors at the nearby Zuoy­ing naval base, Ms Tsai promised to be the strong­est backer of the is­land’s armed forces.

“If there was no backup or help from you all, the mil­i­tary’s stead­fast com­bat strength would be greatly re­duced,” she said.

Tai­wan’s air force is dwarfed by China’s, and the strain of the mul­ti­ple sor­ties on Tai­wan’s armed forces have be­gun to show.

Tai­wan’s De­fence Min­istry this month said the “dra­matic in­crease” in the threat level, along with the air­craft be­ing “mid­dle-aged” had led to a huge in­crease in main­te­nance costs not orig­i­nally bud­geted for.

Saldik Fafana, 21, a trainee air force en­gi­neer at the Gang­shan base, said he had no­ticed an im­pact re­cently. “There is more work,” he told re­porters.

The United States last year ap­proved an $8 bil­lion sale of F-16 fighter jets to Tai­wan.

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