ROC Yearbook

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A camouflaged soldier conducts surveillance and reconnaissance during an exercise at the Army Infantry Training Command. (Courtesy of the Military News Agency)


Strategic Importance

Taiwan is located between Japan and the Philippines at the center of the nearest chain of archipelagos to the coast of the East Asian continental mainland and sits astride two of the region’s most important sea traffic channels, the Taiwan Strait and the Bashi Channel. The island therefore is key to world maritime geo-strategy and pivotal to stability in the Asia-Pacific. Taiwan aims to take advantage of this strategic importance to cooperate with neighboring countries to prevent regional conflicts and pursue mutual economic prosperity.


Military Threat

Sovereignty disputes between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait have persisted since 1949, when the government of the Republic of China (ROC) moved from mainland China to Taiwan and the Chinese Communist Party established its government in Beijing 北京.


Despite the easing of tensions following cross-strait economic talks and various forms of cooperation in recent years, Beijing still constitutes a major military threat to the ROC’s national security. It has not renounced the use of force to settle sovereignty disputes; in 2005, it even enacted the so-called Anti-Secession Law in an attempt to give itself a legal basis to settle the sovereignty issue through non-peaceful means.


Mainland China’s military buildup has continued unabated and poses an imminent threat against the ROC. Over 1,500 of its ballistic and cruise missiles are targeted at Taiwan. Hundreds of combat aircraft and warships are routinely deployed along the southeastern coast of mainland China, directly facing the Taiwan Strait.


Espionage is also ceaselessly employed against Taiwan through human intelligence and cyberwarfare. ROC authorities estimate that the mainland has raised an army of over 180,000 hackers to attack Taiwan’s government and industrial websites and steal sensitive information.


Defense Posture

The ROC Armed Forces maintain strong capabilities as a credible deterrent to defend Taiwan’s democratic society from aggression and to promote peace and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region. To that end, the ROC government is committed to upgrading the nation’s defense capabilities in a timely manner. It does so by making essential purchases of military hardware and by enhancing the nation’s self-reliance in defense-related research and development (R&D) and manufacturing.


International security cooperation is also an important aspect of ROC defense policy. Forms of collaboration include technical exchanges, sharing of intelligence, and military exchanges in all aspects.


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National Defense Reports

In compliance with the National Defense Act 國防法, the Ministry of National Defense (MND) annually publishes the Report on Mainland China’s Military Forces 中共軍力報告書, Five-year Force Buildup Plan of the ROC Armed Forces 中華民國五年兵力整建 and Administration Plan 施政計畫報告. The MND submits these three documents, together with its budget proposals, to the Legislative Yuan (Legislature) 立法院 for review. The MND also publishes the National Defense Report (NDR) 國防報告書 biennially and submits a Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) 四年期國防總檢討 to the Legislature within 10 months after each presidential inauguration to inform the public of the government’s defense policies. The latest QDR was published in March 2013, and the latest NDR was released in October 2015.


Command Structure

As stipulated by the ROC Constitution and the National Defense Act, the president is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, empowered to give direct orders to the minister of national defense. The defense minister, in turn, gives orders to the chief of the general staff for execution.


The president also serves as the chairman of the National Security Council (NSC) 國家安全會議. The NSC is mandated to make recommendations for the president’s reference in decision-making on matters critical to national interests. The NSC members include the vice president, premier, heads of key ministries, chief of the general staff, NSC secretary-general and director-general of the National Security Bureau 國家安全局, which is under the NSC.


For most administrative matters in peacetime, the MND makes recommendations to the Executive Yuan 行政院—headed by the premier—which finalizes decisions and supervises policy implementation. The Legislative Yuan is empowered to request MND officials to attend committees and plenary sessions, and it can also influence defense policies by modifying the Executive Yuan’s budget proposals.


National Defense System


Armed Forces

The Army is an agile land-based defense force and safeguards areas of strategic importance. The Navy conducts maritime patrols to maintain security in the ROC’s territorial waters. It also coordinates with the Army and the Air Force to counter enemy maritime blockades or attacks to secure Taiwan’s sea lines of communication. The Air Force’s primary mission is to safeguard the nation’s airspace and provide early warning and aerial surveillance. These branches have bases around Taiwan and on offshore islands.


Additional units of the Armed Forces that play combat roles include the Air Defense Missile Command 防空飛彈指揮部 and the Information and Electronic Warfare Command 資電作戰指揮部 of the General Staff Headquarters 國防部參謀本部. Other military organizations that play essential support roles include the Army Logistics Command 陸軍後勤指揮部, the Reserve Command 後備指揮部 and the Military Police Command 憲兵指揮部.


While the Armed Forces’ primary mission is to protect the nation from external aggression, another role entrusted to them, pursuant to the Disaster Prevention and Protection Act 災害防救法, is to perform rapid-response rescue and relief operations in accidents and natural disasters. In 2015, the Armed Forces rescued victims of a water park explosion, conducted search-and-rescue after a domestic airliner crash, cleaned up after typhoons, and helped bring several epidemics under control.


In line with world trends in military environments and technologies, the ROC Armed Forces will be further streamlined from the current 215,000 members to between 190,000 and 200,000. The nation’s defense budget for 2016 was NT$320.10 billion (US$9.60 billion), 16.20 percent of the general budget of the ROC central government.


Weapon System Upgrades

To maintain military balance of power across the Taiwan Strait, the ROC manufactures its own weapons while purchasing arms from the U.S. and other countries. From 2013 to 2018, the nation will take delivery of 30 AH-64E Apache attack helicopters, 60 UH-60 Black Hawk utility helicopters, 12 P-3C Orion anti-submarine aircraft and six Patriot missile systems from the U.S. Taiwan also launched its first locally designed stealth missile corvette, the Tuo Jiang 沱江 and a new naval supply vessel, the Pan Shi 磐石. In December 2015, the U.S. government announced its fourth arms sale to Taiwan since 2008. The US$1.83 billion deal included two Perry-class frigates, data link systems, surface-to-air missiles, anti-tank missiles, amphibious assault vehicles, and shipborne close-in weapon systems intended to counter missiles.


Defense Industry

The National Defense Act mandates that priority be given to acquisition of domestically manufactured equipment over the procurement of arms from abroad. It further requires that, insofar as possible, procurements from abroad be tied to technology transfers. Domestic defense-related enterprises and institutions have a high degree of technological sophistication in the areas of aviation, missilery, electronics and materials technologies.


The National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology (NCSIST) 國家中山科學研究院 is Taiwan’s leading institution for defense R&D, engaging in the development, management and integration of advanced weapon systems. Among those that have been deployed are Sky Bow I and II surface-to-air missiles 天弓飛彈, Sky Sword I and II air-to-air missiles 天劍飛彈 and Hsiung Feng I, II and III anti-ship missiles 雄風反艦飛彈. The NCSIST unveiled its first unmanned aerial vehicles in 2012, followed by a lighter, more portable version in December 2014.


Formerly state-owned, Aerospace Industrial Development Corp. (AIDC) 漢翔航空工業股份有限公司 is internationally recognized as a top-quality manufacturer and is highly regarded for its R&D in the field of aviation. It designed and produced the Ching-kuo Indigenous Defense Fighter 經國號戰鬥機, which has been one of the mainstays of the ROC Air Force’s fleet since the late 1990s. Prior to the development of the Ching-kuo fighter, the AIDC coproduced the F-5E/F Tiger II with U.S.-based Northrop Grumman Corp. In addition to its military businesses, the AIDC is currently collaborating with Rolls-Royce, GE Aviation and other global aircraft manufacturers on civilian aircraft.


National Military Museum


Personnel and Service System

There are two categories of national defense personnel: civilian and military. Civilian personnel are recruited through national examinations and a more flexible open selection process, while military personnel are inducted through conscription or voluntary examination and recruitment.


Currently, all healthy male citizens of the ROC who satisfy the Armed Forces’ physical fitness standards are obligated to complete a term of military service at the earliest available opportunity between January 1 of the year after the calendar year in which they turn 18 years old and December 31 of the year of their 36th birthday. Senior high school and university students can defer military service until graduation.


At present, all draftees are eligible to apply for substitute service positions in lieu of military service, as provided for in the Enforcement Statute for Substitute Services 替代役實施條例 of 2007. Following a short period of basic military training, those admitted to the program are placed in positions according to their interests and skills.


Substitute service falls into two categories: general and R&D. Draftees who opt for general substitute service can serve in a wide variety of positions, including as security guards, firefighters, social workers, medical personnel and overseas humanitarian project workers. Draftees performing R&D substitute service must have at least a master’s degree and are required to work for three years at Ministry of the Interior-approved government institutions, public or private research centers or universities.


Currently, the period of compulsory military service of draftees who were born before 1994 is 12 months. Male citizens born in or after 1994 are only required to receive four months’ basic military training before becoming members of the reserve forces.


In order to build a modern armed force, the MND is gradually increasing the number of volunteer personnel, aiming to eventually shift to an all-volunteer military. Furthermore, the MND is endeavoring to bolster recruitment and retention by offering a better service environment, attractive wages, off-the-job training and veteran employment services. In September 2015, the Provisional Statute Governing the Promotion of a Volunteer Military Force 推動募兵制暫行條例 was passed to increase incentives and benefits for volunteer service members. For the 2015 recruitment year, the MND recruited 18,550 individuals, exceeding the year’s target of 14,000.


safeguarding Military human Rights


Military Education

The MND provides pre-service education for those wishing to become professional soldiers. Students who receive undergraduate degrees from college-level military academies may become commissioned officers, while those who wish to begin active service after graduating from senior high school-level military academies can become noncommissioned officers.


Throughout their careers, ROC professional soldiers are provided with abundant opportunities—and, in some instances, are required—to undergo supplementary in-service education and training to hone their skills and leadership capabilities.


The MND is striving to improve the military education system and prepares selected officers from each service to study abroad at strategy institutes, staff and command colleges, and various think tanks around the world. National Defense University 國防大學 also designs and provides diversified classes on strategic planning, operations, command and disaster relief in order to enhance future commanders’ capabilities.


Homeland Security

In addition to combat preparedness, the ROC government attaches great importance to other aspects of homeland security. These include preventing terrorist attacks; gathering and sharing intelligence and information; safeguarding territorial airspace and waters; protecting critical infrastructure; maintaining operations of essential public- and private-sector functions in times of crisis; strengthening information security; and assisting in emergency response and management.


Air-raid practice and disaster drills (including the Wan-an 萬安 and the Min-an 民安 exercises) have been held annually to buttress the abilities of local governments to coordinate with the military not only in times of war but also in the event of a natural disaster, nuclear accident or any other incident threatening lives and property. The Han Kuang exercise 漢光演習, which includes command post and field training exercises, is held annually to consolidate joint operations among the three branches of the Armed Forces while enhancing their overall fighting capabilities and combat readiness.


The Executive Yuan’s Office of Disaster Management 災害防救辦公室 and Office of Homeland Security 國土安全辦公室 cooperate closely with the Armed Forces to integrate emergency responses to man-made and natural disasters, communicable disease and terrorist threats. Meanwhile, the Coast Guard Administration 海岸巡防署, which is independent of the Armed Forces, implements the An Hai Project 安海專案 to crack down on the smuggling of goods and trafficking of arms, drugs and persons.


Related websites

• Ministry of National Defense:

• National Security Bureau:

• National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology:

• Aerospace Industrial Development Corp.:

• Coast Guard Administration: