Taipei (The China Post/ANN) - Despite warming cross-strait ties, China's growing military strength, which continues to target Taiwan, still poses a major threat to the country, according to a defense white paper released by the Ministry of National Defense (MND).
In response to the increasing military menace, Deputy Defense Minister Andrew Yang yesterday said during a press conference to unveil the 2011 national defense report that the thawing ties between the two sides won't change the military's resolve to defend the country.
"Relations across the Taiwan Strait have undergone major changes over the past two years under the current ruling administration, moving toward more peaceful and stable bilateral exchanges," said Yang.
However, he noted that Taiwan still faces tremendous challenges and threats, adding that the closer ties do not mean that the R.O.C.'s armed forces are slacking off or no longer prepared to defend the country from a possible mainland invasion, Yang noted.
According to the 2011 defense report, China's military spending is approximately 21 times Taiwan's annually, and People's Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers number reportedly nearly 10 times more than the number of local armed forces.
Beijing has 2.3 million soldiers and spends up to US$180 billion on military expenditures yearly. Taiwan currently has 270,000 soldiers and its defense budget is only around US$9 billion, the report said.
The number of missiles stationed on China's southeastern coast targeting Taiwan has grown steadily yearly to over 1,000, showing that Beijing has never renounced the use of force against Taiwan to prevent it from declaring independence, the report said.
The defense white paper also revealed that since last year, the PLA has been manufacturing and deploying its latest weapon, the DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missile, which can destroy American ships.
When asked to comment on the growing cross-strait military imbalance that continues to shift in Beijing's favor, military spokesman Lo Shao-ho said Taiwan will not engage in an arms race with China, but will focus instead on making optimal use of its defense budget.
Meanwhile, the white paper also included the annual U.S.-Taiwan Defense Industry Conference held in America as an official bilateral military exchange channel.
The yearly event, attended by MND officials and featuring speeches made by their U.S. counterparts, was launched to address Washington's defense cooperation with Taipei.
But it was also reportedly attended by many American defense contractors with the purpose of promoting sales of arms to Taiwan
The MND said this year's report is divided into nine chapters, with the main focus on helping citizens better understand the country's defense policy
The national defense white paper has been released every two years since 1992, according to the ministry.
A comic version of the national defense report will be released next month, as part of efforts to cultivate interest in military service among young readers, said the MND.