The Republic of China (Taiwan) has indicated its intention to again try to acquire the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter as part of a furious military buildup aimed at defending itself against what it sees as an inevitable invasion by communist China.
The Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) published by the Ministry of National Defense said Taiwan intends to buy two versions of the F-35 Lightning: the F35A, the conventional take-off and landing (CTOL) jet operated by the U.S. Air Force and the F-35B, the short take-off, vertical landing (STOVL) variant flown by the U.S. Marine Corps.
The F-35s will be deployed by the Republic of China Air Force to support the Republic of China Army and the Republic of China Navy, according to the QDR. The report also said the F-35B, the STOVL variant, is necessary for rapid response to threats from the People's Liberation Army.
The stealth fighters will be vital in adding more muscle to Taiwan's strategy of "double-level deterrence" which the defense ministry defines as a strategy of not just defense, but of rapid response to prevent an invasion.
The defense ministry said China has not given up on its plans to invade Taiwan. This assessment means Taiwan must better prepare for this forthcoming invasion with all the means at its disposal, including the purchase and development of more advanced equipment such as combat aircraft, missiles, submarines and warships.
Taiwan expects a Chinese invasion before 2020, at the earliest.
Taiwan will increase its current military budget by seven percent to $147 billion to enable the acquisition and development of military equipment amid rising tensions with China, said the QDR report.
The report was released before the Trump administration said it plans to provide "more and better defensive arms" for Taiwan. Taiwan, however, is uncertain if the F-35s will be included in the deal.
The Pentagon recently reaffirmed that "the objective of our defense engagement with Taiwan is to ensure that Taiwan remains secure, confident, free from coercion and able to engage in a peaceful, productive dialogue to resolve differences."
Taiwan first sought to acquire F-35s in 2009. The Obama administration, however, rejected the request in 2011 out of fear of agitating China.