A hard-hitting report from a top Australian think tank has warned that the United States no longer has military primacy in the Pacific Photo: U.S. MARINE CORPS/AFP/File
politics

U.S. power waning in Pacific, warns top Australian think tank

34 Comments
By Andrew BEATTY

The United States no longer has military primacy in the Pacific and could struggle to defend allies against China, a top Australian think tank warned Monday.

A hard-hitting report from the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney said the U.S. military is an "atrophying force" that is "dangerously overstretched" and "ill-prepared" for a confrontation with China.

If correct, the assessment has far-reaching implications for U.S. allies like Australia, Taiwan and Japan who depend on American security guarantees.

Donald Trump's presidency has deepened concerns that Washington would not defend its allies in the face of aggression from China. But this latest report has suggested that the United States may struggle to help even if it wanted to.

Accusing Washington of "strategic insolvency", the authors said decades-long Middle East wars, partisanship and under-investment have left Pacific allies exposed.

"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," they warned.

Under President Xi Jinping, China's official defense budget has increased by around 75 percent to $178 billion -- although the true figure is believed to be much more.

Crucially, Beijing has invested in precision ballistic missiles and counter-intervention systems that would make it difficult for the U.S. military to reach contested areas quickly.

According to the report, "almost all American, allied and partner bases, airstrips, ports and military installations in the Western Pacific" lack hardened infrastructure and are under major threat.

That advantage could be used to seize territory in Taiwan, Japanese-administered islands or the South China Sea before U.S. forces could get there.

Experts believe that the deployment of U.S. land-based missiles and a changed role for the United States Marine Corps will be vital to countering China, as well as collective regional defense -- with the likes of Australia and Japan doing more.

In Australia, concerns have been growing about inadequate defenses, prompting debate about whether the country should think about developing nuclear weapons.

Similar discussions are have periodically taken place in neighboring Indonesia.

A separate report released on Sunday by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute recommended Australia boost and harden military capabilities in the thinly-populated north of the country.

"Because of the significantly reduced warning times for future conflict," wrote author John Coyne, it is likely the north of Australia will be used as a forward operating base or a "lily pad" to reach conflict zones.

The U.S. military has already earmarked around $210 million to boost a Marine Corps base near Darwin.

During a recent visit to Australia, Defense Secretary Mark Esper suggested the United States wants to deploy intermediate-range missiles in Asia. So far, the Australian government has stressed it has not received a formal request to host those weapons.

© 2019 AFP

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

34 Comments
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If the United States and allied nations do not heed this warning the time may come when it is too late to stop the most militarily and economically powerful dictatorship in the history of this planet.

3 ( +16 / -13 )

Japan, South Korea, and SE Asian countries can kiss the US protection goodbye. The US does not have the power projection and ground forces to fend off China's grab for islands in South China Sea or Taiwan. Japan doesn't have booths on the ground at the disputed Senkaku Islands so China can land troops and take possession of it - hey its disputed, that what it is !! PM Abe need to put a small coast guard station on the islands !!

3 ( +9 / -6 )

heed this warning

And do what?

I know the ascendancy of a virile China are upsetting to say the least, but what are the options?

War, embargo, sanctions, promotion of an internal revolution, promotion of an internal confusion by covert means. etc.

Choose your pioson.

Gary

-2 ( +8 / -10 )

Has there ever been a Chinese warship in the Gulf of Mexico? Just cruisin'? Are American 'defenses' in the Gulf area not complete and 'appropriate'? So too, the South China Sea to China, maybe? Is China invading countries all over the world under the direction of outside players who hold China's management in both financial and criminal ways in their control? No. Does China have hostile forces located in every country which can be coerced into allowing it? No. Is China a trade BULLY on the world stage. No. Is America ALL of the things which America accuses China of being? Yes. Forget it Aussies, you're going to have open your own pocket book if your paranoia increases.

-3 ( +9 / -12 )

And the sky is falling...

-6 ( +3 / -9 )

The last paragraph gives the game away: make Australians panic so the US can come and set up their new intermediate range nuclear missiles in Australia.

Same strategy to be employed in Japan.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

@OssanAmerica

What do you propose?

Should the US do as China is doing and continue to print money without regards to what its actual value will become?

Regardless of what you would like to believe, China's military spending is not because it wants to stand up against the US or go to war with the US. A war such as that is something both sides cannot afford. China is seeking to replace the US. The same way the US stood up to replace the UK and the same way other countries have stood up to replace the countries where the sun has started to set.

China is simply positioning itself to be chosen as the next replacement.

-1 ( +9 / -10 )

And what exactly are the Pacific nations doing to embrace American protection? They keep giving away their land and seas to chinese money.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

it's not like Australia is going to spurn Communist China

-6 ( +1 / -7 )

What Australia needs is self sufficiency in Defense. It needs to develop its own intermediate ballistic missiles. It needs a much bigger military as what it currently has is almost laughably small. It needs to be building its own Jet fighters and MBT's under license if need be. Of course it wont do any of that as it lacks leadership and foresight.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

@Peter14: I think Australia is simply too small to do all of that. Better to leverage its strength with allied countries.

Keep in mind that the military industrial complex needs and loves the China threat to ensure revenue.

-4 ( +3 / -7 )

So much for Obama's "pivot" to Asia.  another of his windy assertions that didn't come to pass.

Anyway, so what?

Worse comes to the worse they always have the nuclear option.......

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

they always have the nuclear option

Yep, you are right.

They do have that.

gary

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Under Trump's leadership, the US has engaged in many unnecessary conflicts (Iran, North Korea, and the traditional allies around the world). In this way, it does not have adequate resource, force, and determination to stop China from taking the whole Southeast Asia Sea.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

US try to ally with India against China but on 27.02.19, Pakistan Air Force outclassed India by downing its two jets. Now US has concerns over India's ability to do so.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

With four times the population of the U.S., it is inevitable that China will increase its military power relative to the U.S..

On the other hand, having an idiot for a president doesn't help.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

Under Trump's leadership, the US has engaged in many unnecessary conflicts (Iran, North Korea, and the traditional allies around the world). In this way, it does not have adequate resource, force, and determination to stop China from taking the whole Southeast Asia Sea

The US has not engaged in conflict with either of those countries.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

If the United States and allied nations do not heed this warning the time may come when it is too late to stop the most militarily and economically powerful dictatorship in the history of this planet.

It's never too late to stop a dictatorship, whether in Beijing or Washington.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

The US has not engaged in conflict with either of those countries.

What hole have you been living in for the past two and a half years? Trump conflicts with EVERYONE. He can't even not conflict with his own party and people.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

RecklessToday 03:20 pm JST

@Peter14: I think Australia is simply too small to do all of that. Better to leverage its strength with allied countries.

A developed nation of over 25 Million people with abundant resources and a proven ability to innovate is capable of doing what I suggested. Israel does much with its defense industry and less than half of Australia's population. If you say you cant then you wont try. If you say you can then you give it a go and progress in the right direction until you achieve your goals.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Well it is time for the USA to GO HOME NOW.

Let the allies fight China themselves, It is Japan, Taiwan, S. Korea and Australia to fend for themselves. Let China have the Pacific. Allies complain on US Forces so hope Trump takes them all home. Time for all in teh Pacific to Learn Chinese. If the Allies want the US Mercenary Forces then they need to pay for it. OR learn to speak mandarin. Good Luck we will not come back!

-6 ( +3 / -9 )

the time may come when it is too late to stop the most militarily and economically powerful dictatorship in the history of this planet.

Are you talking about the USA or China here?

-6 ( +2 / -8 )

No empire lasts forever, and the American empire is certainly on the wane. Countries like Japan and Australia will need to look after themselves increasingly in the future. The Chinese empire is nothing new of course - it has been waxing and waning for millenia, though its resources now place it very well for a period of significant expansion. The question now is the extent to which those nations which stand to lose to that expansion can stand on their own two feet.

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

Why would US has to defend allies ? Based on what UN laws ? Why would US has to be against China ? Based on what philosophy ? If Australia is afraid of justice, then don't make enemies.

-5 ( +2 / -7 )

Some posters equate China and the US as both being dictatorships. The difference is that in 1 year or 5, we can get rid of our current idiot leader. In China, Xi Jing Ping is the ruler for life, with no mechanism for the Chinese people to vote. Xi's policies, of military and territorial expansion, of taking Taiwan by force are not going to change through any change in administration. The world's eyes are on Hong Kong now.

China is a bully nation that uses it greater size and power to expand it;s control over smaller weaker neighbors. Whether one agrees or disagrees with US policy, it's the only country that can balance that threat. Hence, the US is welcomed by China's Asian neighbors.

China is simple replacing the US" would be fine if they were a democracy and not an un-elected one-party dictatorship. Many posters here denigrate the US, Japan, etc without fear of prosecution. In China one can not legally express opinions counter to that of the state. Only an idiot would support such a regime gaining more power and influence over more parts of this world. This is the hypocrisy of the Wumao crowd.

What should the US and Allied nations do about China's expansion? They already are. But more is needed. Open support for the people of Hong Kong, support for Taiwan independence, etc. The current US administration's position on China may be the only policy that makes any sense since they took over.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

OssanAmerica, China has 8000 years civilization, and traditionally Chinese leaders have to be chosen through rigorous tests and examinations. What good is it if you elect a leader but he/she can't perform ? China is big, but never invaded Japan. Japan is small but invaded neighbors multiple times. Don't tell me that Japan was simply follow the west examples. Wrong is wrong and crime is crime.

-7 ( +1 / -8 )

Japan can't afford to behave violently again, the time has long gone. Japan has to be careful about Australia, and be away from it. If Australia wants to fight against China, it is their business, Japan is not a part of it.

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

the time may come when it is too late to stop the most militarily and economically powerful dictatorship in the history of this planet.

Was the U.S. meant to attack itself??

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

Many posters here denigrate the US, Japan, etc without fear of prosecution. In China one can not legally express opinions counter to that of the state.

I admit I do prefer the farm where I can bleat freely. But I do not suffer the delusion that my bleatings might be heeded by the butchers. Our democracy might be slightly more believable than theirs too.

China is a bully nation that uses it greater size and power to expand it;s control over smaller weaker neighbors.

Not really. China has not invaded anyone in a very long time. Meanwhile the U.S. has invaded several far off neighborhoods.

What should the US and Allied nations do about China's expansion?

Do you live in an alternate reality? Its America that practically has China surrounded with an expanding global empire of bases. I hardly agree with China, but their sights are clearly set on areas with historical relations to China.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

Hmm. I wonder if this kind of talk, y'know, maybe down the road bringing nukes into Aussie land, has anything to do with that kerfuffle in Hong Kong...

Yeah. It does.

Calm down everybody, This is how diplomacy works. Never forget: Canon is the last argument of Kings. Not the first, or the second, but the last. And wispers in corners about biggerer and bettterer canons is somewhere in the middle.

Be that as it may, those here worried about the future should be: either the US and China figure out some way to peacefully make room for China's new economic and military might - China's, ahem, Place in the Sun -- then Europe's past may very well be East Asia's future.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Who are the authors of this report anyway ?

And who are paying to them ?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

So many down votes from people who have no argument to voice. One gets the feeling they know full well the greatest threat to peace and stability is not China but the United States, they are just loathe to admit it.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

China is simple replacing the US" would be fine if they were a democracy and not an un-elected one-party dictatorship. Many posters here denigrate the US, Japan, etc without fear of prosecution. In China one can not legally express opinions counter to that of the state. 

I often hear this by defenders of the US. However, "at least we are better than China" falls somewhat short of what the founding fathers intended. At the rate it's going, it may not be long before Americans can even say that truthfully.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I often hear this by defenders of the US. However, "at least we are better than China" falls somewhat short of what the founding fathers intended.

This is why whaddabout culture is so damaging. It justifies ignoring issues because someone else has done something worse. It's the source of stagnation, and poison to improvement and innovation.

The right royally screwed things up by trying to escape their responsibility for the invasion of Iraq, a colossal failure in leadership, with eight years of 'but whaddabout', obstructing progress due to their pissiness about not being re-elected after their colossal Iraq screwup.

And now they whine about living in the environment they created.

Well that's what happens when you don't take responsibility for your actions, and instead double down on stupid; things get worse.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

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