Taiwanese and US flags during a rally in Taipei. Photo: Twitter
Taiwanese and US flags during a rally in Taipei. Photo: Twitter

Taiwanese officials have stressed a dual approach to boost the defense capacity of the self-ruled island. While continuing to lobby the US, Japan and other nations for the sale of arms and transfer of technologies, equal significance must be given to developing indigenous weapons and systems, a senior official said.

Taiwan’s deputy defense minister, Chang Guan-chung, made the remarks during a trip to the US to attend a symposium to foster exchanges between the US and Taiwanese militaries.

Chang said in a speech at the US-Taiwan Defense Industry Conference in Maryland that the island had no one else to count on in fending off the first wave of a sortie by the Chinese military at the onset of a full-blown war.

His words came against the backdrop of the US Congress and Donald Trump administration possibly approving a fresh batch of arms sales to the island by the end of the year, according to Rupert Hammond-Chambers, the president of the US-Taiwan Business Council.

If approved, the new deal will come hot on the heels of the US$330 million deal for spare parts to retrofit Taiwan’s F-16 fighters to the latest V configuration.

Chang said Taiwan’s military investment should avoid an arms race, but it must develop indigenous systems and procure overseas products to form a niche, despite the obvious mismatch in size and headcount between the Taiwanese military and the People’s Liberation Army.

He added that Taiwan must explore further channels to integrate its defense development with its expertise in electronic hardware and information technology.

Brent Christensen, the new chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan. Photo: Handout

Meanwhile on Wednesday, Brent Christensen, the newly installed chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan, told a press conference in Taipei that the US would not stand by and allow any non-peaceful attempt to alter unilaterally the status quo of Taiwan, let alone any military bid to retake the breakaway island.

The de facto US ambassador to Taiwan also said he would do all he could to promote security cooperation between Washington and Taipei, saying “promoting security cooperation and improving Taiwan’s self-defense capability must go hand in hand.”

He added that the US had an “obligation to support Taiwan in maintaining a sufficient self-defense capability against coercion.”

But Christensen dodged repeated questions from reporters about the rumored new arms deals for Taiwan.

Read more: F-16V to beef up Taiwan’s air defense against China’s J-20