China’s military would be able to use missiles to overwhelm American military bases in Asia within hours, a think tank has warned.
The US defence strategy in the Indo-Pacific is “in the throes of an unprecedented crisis”, according to a report from the United States Studies Centre, at the University of Sydney in Australia.
The analysis said China has deployed a “formidable array of precision missiles and other counter-intervention systems to undercut America’s military primacy” in the region.
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“This growing arsenal of accurate long-range missiles poses a major threat to almost all American, allied and partner bases, airstrips, ports and military installations in the Western Pacific,” it added.
“As these facilities could be rendered useless by precision strikes in the opening hours of a conflict, the PLA [People’s Liberation Army] missile threat challenges America’s ability to freely operate its forces from forward locations throughout the region.”
The report described the US military as an “atrophying force that is not sufficiently ready, equipped or postured for great power competition in the Indo-Pacific”.
It said Washington’s commitment to nearly two decades of wars in the Middle East and budget instability had “dangerously overstretched its defence resources”, leaving US forces “ill-prepared” for a confrontation with China.
“China, by contrast, is growing ever more capable of challenging the regional order by force as a result of its large-scale investment in advanced military systems,” the report added.
While the US was still likely to win an extended war, the report warned China could use “limited force to achieve a fait accompli victory before America can respond”.
The Sydney think tank recommended that the US and its regional allies, such as Australia and Japan, should pursue a “collective deterrence” policy in the region.
Such a policy would include establishing new high-end military exercises in the region and expanding those that already take place.
The report also said American partners would need to improve their own militaries to bolster weaknesses in the US military’s regional power.