• ROC Navy Tuo Jiang corvette.

ROC Navy Tuo Jiang corvette. (Photo : ROCN)

The Republic of China Navy (ROCN) will increase the number of its patrols of the disputed South China Sea and will conduct more joint drills with the Republic of China Air Force (ROCAF).

"Looking ahead at the transformation of China's strategy and its investment in new weapons equipment, our military will practice new reforms in our training," said Taiwan's defense minister, Feng Shih-kuan, to the Legislative Yuan, the country's parliament, when he presented the ministry's report about the state of the nation's defense.

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"The navy, during its regular South China Sea patrols, will conduct joint training with the air force in protecting fishermen and supply transports, and in humanitarian rescue drills to expand the combat readiness of our sea and air patrols," according to Feng.

Feng's analysis comes ahead of China revealing its new defense budget for 2017 next week. Feng said Taiwan is increasingly concerned over the brazenness of the People's Liberation Army Navy in sending its naval squadrons to sail closer to Taiwan.

The People's Liberation Army Air Force has also increased the number of aerial patrols passing close to Taiwan's airspace.

Feng noted that these naval and air drills by the mainland, which have more and more participating ships and planes, represents "an increase in threat."

Feng also confirmed that a MIM-104 Patriot Advanced Capability surface-to-air missile battery will be deployed to Taiwan's eastern coast.

"The deployment of this force is done entirely for the security of our country," said Feng.

Taiwan regularly delivers supplies to its military garrison at Itu Aba, its sole possession in the South China Sea. Also called Taiping Island, Itu Aba is the largest of the naturally occurring Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.  What makes the 1.4 kilometer-long island special is its freshwater supply, a rarity among islands in the Spratlys.

The Taiping Island Airport has an airstrip capable of handling ROCAF C-130 transport planes that normally make one supply run every two months.