The US no longer has military superiority in the Pacific to protect allies against China, AFP reported referring to a major Australian think tank’s warning.
A report by the United States Research Center at the University of Sydney states that the US military is an atrophied force that is dangerously overstrained and poorly prepared for a confrontation with China, CNA reported.
If everything is correct, the assessment has far-reaching consequences for US allies such as Australia, Taiwan, and Japan, which depend on US security guarantees.
Accusing Washington of strategic insolvency, the authors argue that years of war in the Middle East and inadequate investment have left the Pacific allies vulnerable.
"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 about 75 percent to $ 178 billion, although the true figure is believed to be much larger.
Beijing has invested in the development of high-precision ballistic missiles and countermeasures that would make it difficult for the US military to quickly reach the disputed areas.
Experts believe that the deployment of US ground-based missiles and the changing role of the US Marine Corps will be vital for countering China, as well as for collective regional defense - while Australia and Japan are doing more.
In Australia, there is growing concern about inadequate protection, which raises debate about whether the country should consider developing nuclear weapons.
Similar discussions are held periodically in neighboring Indonesia.
A separate report published on Sunday by the Australian Institute for Strategic Policy recommended that Australia build up and strengthen military capabilities in the sparsely 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 US military has already allocated about $ 210 million to strengthen the base of the Marine Corps near Darwin.
During a recent visit to Australia, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper suggested that the US wants to deploy medium-range missiles in Asia. The Australian government has noted so far that it has not received an official request for the deployment of these weapons.