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Taiwan Defense & Security Report – Annual Review, 2008

At the beginning of 2008, many held hopes for an eventual peaceful resolution of the Taiwan “problem”, and the year even delivered on some of its early promises to lower tensions in the Taiwan Strait.

The first part of the year saw the election of President Ma Ying-jeou and the start of a new Legislative Yuan (LY) session controlled by Mr. Ma’s Kuomintang (KMT) party. This KMT majority within both the executive and the legislative branches helped pave the way not only towards ending the longstanding and frustrating deadlock in the LY, but it also served to effectively and actively thaw relations with Beijing.

Challenges remain, however, even as Taipei tries to rebuild trust with its major ally the U.S. – also undergoing a change in government – while at the same time working to improve ties with its principal and often elusive adversary, China. National security is increasingly being viewed in the context not just of traditional military balance, but also as a part of a highly complex network of competitive economic integration between China and Taiwan. This complex relationship poses new problems for Taipei in terms of defense and national security strategy, the long-term implications of which are still far from clear.

This annual report provides a brief overview of significant developments in 2008, as well as some of the more systemic factors that influenced the course of events during the past year. We will also examine the 2009 defense budget and provide an update on select systems.

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