Taiwan to Allow Women into Military Reservist Training for First Time as China Fears Grow

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Taiwan's defence ministry said it would allow 220 discharged female soldiers to enroll in the training starting from the second quarter of this year.

Taiwan’s military announced plans on Tuesday to allow women to volunteer for reserve force training for the first time this year, as the democratic self-ruled island tries to bolster its forces against threats from China.

Taiwan lives under the constant fear of China’s invasion, as Beijing claims the island a part of its territory to be taken one day – by force if necessary.

China’s military pressure on Taipei has intensified in recent years under President Xi Jinping, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has further deepened worries on the island that Beijing might move similarly.

The Taiwanese Defence Ministry said it would allow 220 discharged female soldiers to enroll in voluntary reservist training beginning from the second quarter of this year, as part of efforts to boost the island’s overall backup force.

“This is the first year to include women in the reservists training so this year will be a trial programme,” said Major General Yu Wen-cheng from the ministry’s All-Out Defence Mobilisation Agency.

“We will plan the training capacities according to the number of applicants,” he added, telling reporters the voluntary programmes aim to “strengthen the effectiveness of the retraining of reserve troops in combat skills to help improve the combat capabilities of reservists”.

Currently, only Taiwanese men are required to do mandatory military service and reservist training, although women can volunteer to serve in the armed forces.

Taiwan’s Defense Ministry has previously said it only trained male reservists because it did not have sufficient capacity to accommodate both sexes. Lawmakers had said excluding women from reserve training amounted to gender discrimination.

Last month, Taiwan announced that it will extend the period of mandatory military conscription for all eligible men from four months to a year beginning from 2024, and the requirement will apply to men born after 2005.

The CIA World Factbook says Taiwan has a military force of about 170,000 personnel, made up mostly of volunteers, while also training about 120,000 reservists annually. It also adds that as of 2021, women made up 15% of the military, but they serve mostly in non-combat roles.

Males of ages 18 to 36 must either volunteer to serve in the military or carry out a period of mandatory service in the reserves and once discharged, men are subject to training recalls on four occasions over eight years.