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New study warns of Chinese threat to US military power in the Pacific

Soldiers of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley/Released)
August 27, 2019

A new study claims a full-scale surprise attack by China could upset U.S. military supremacy in the Pacific.

The study published Monday by the University of Sydney’s United States Studies Center concluded that prolonged military engagements and budget shortfalls were among several factors that siphon off the strength of U.S. force readiness in the Indo-Pacific region that could not only cripple regional military assets, but that could also upset the advantage the U.S. has held in the Pacific since the end of World War II.

“We have the strongest military in the world,” President Donald Trump said in counter to the study’s assertions, according to The Washinton Times.

Trump said an attack by China would end badly for Beijing and would not be worth the price China would ultimately pay.

Despite Trump’s assurances, the study’s warning conclusions are matched by a growing concern in the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill. The Defense Department’s “Indo-Pacific Strategy” report released earlier this summer highlight the importance of working with regional allies like Australia and Japan, but researchers question whether the U.S. can counter a Chinese attack.

The University of Sydney study says China has implemented counter-intervention systems which undermine the U.S. ability to project forces in the region in response to an attack.

“American forces that are able to operate would be highly constrained in the early phases of a crisis — lacking air and naval dominance, outnumbered by their PLA equivalents and severely challenged by the loss of enabling infrastructure, like functioning airstrips, fuel depots and port facilities, all of which would be at least temporarily degraded by precision strikes,” the study continues.

Recent years of increased military spending have given China hundreds of fighter aircraft and dozens of advanced submarines and warships. China also has an estimated 570 missile launchers that could be used in such a conflict.

Despite these buildups, Chinese officials deny any plans for a conflict with the U.S.

“What I can tell you is that China unswervingly follows the path of peaceful development and a national defense policy that is defensive in nature,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said in a recent press engagement.

Last week, the Trump Administration’s approval of $8 billion worth of F-16 fighter jets in a sale to Taiwan drew condemnation by Beijing. The two countries have had friction in recent years as the U.S. has condemned Chinese assertions of sovereignty over several islands in the South China Sea.

The U.S. is also closely monitoring ongoing protests in Hong Kong and lawmakers are urging the White House to prepare a response should the Chinese government violently crackdown.