US no longer as powerful in the Pacific, warns top think-tank, Latest World News - The New Paper

US no longer as powerful in the Pacific, warns top think-tank

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SYDNEY: The US no longer has military primacy in the Pacific and could struggle to defend allies against China, a top Australian think-tank has warned.

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

Accusing Washington of "strategic insolvency", the authors said decades-long Middle East wars, partisanship and underinvestment 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 defence budget has increased by 75 per cent to US$178 billion (S$247 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 US 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 US forces could get there. - AFP