Hong Kong

Taiwan’s military on Tuesday rolled out plans to allow women to volunteer for reserve force training for the first time, as China continues to ramp up military pressure on the democratic self-ruled island.

The Taiwanese Defense Ministry said it will allow 220 discharged female soldiers to enroll in the training starting from the second quarter of this year.

Maj. Gen. Yu Wen-cheng, from the ministry’s All-Out Defense Mobilization Agency, said the move would be on a trial basis for this year.

Taiwan’s Defense Ministry has previously said it only trained male reservists because it did not have sufficient capacity to accommodate both sexes.

Taiwanese lawmakers had said excluding women from reserve training amounted to gender discrimination.

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

Taiwan has a military force of about 170,000 personnel, made up mostly of volunteers, while also training about 120,000 reservists annually, according to the CIA World Factbook.

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.

Once discharged, men are subject to training recalls on four occasions over eight years.

As of 2021, women made up 15% of Taiwan’s military, but serve mostly in non-combat roles, the CIA Factbook says.

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