TOKYO – If the US and China are involved in a war of attrition between two countries that are irrelevant to time and geography, the US side is still superior. But in reality, only a fraction of the US military – approximately 10 to 15% of its naval and air assets – is stationed in the Western Pacific.
If China tries to occupy Taiwan by force, its geographical proximity and dramatic military expansion increase the likelihood that Beijing will benefit in the early stages of the conflict.
A group of experts has suggested a new strategy of “active rejection” for this changing balance of power. He argues that capturing China’s offensive smile and buying time for the arrival of additional troops that could defeat China’s potential aggression.
The authors propose a phased approach, focusing on flexibility at the beginning of the conflict. By tightening facilities such as concrete aircraft shelters and underground munitions and fuel storage, the effectiveness of enemy attacks will be greatly reduced, he says.
He says US forward-deployed troops, mostly away from China, will increase resilience. In particular, the strategy calls for the number of US military personnel in Japan to be reduced from the current 55,000 to 44,000, while the number of personnel in Guam should be increased from the current 8,800 to 14,000 and in Australia from 1,160 to 7,000.
The title of the study, shared only with Nikkei Asia, is “Active Rejection: A Roadmap for a More Effective, Stable and Sustainable US Defense Policy in Asia.” The think tank, led by former research fellow Rachel Esplin Odell of the Washington think tank Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, included nine other security experts, including war-sports expert Eric Haginbotham, former intelligence officer John Culver and Japan expert Mike Mochizuki. .
The argument to resist China through “denial” is led by Elbridge Colby, a former deputy secretary of defense for strategy and power planning and the chief architect of the Trump administration’s 2018 national defense policy.
In his book, The Strategy of Denial, Colby argues that the United States must protect Taiwan in the absence of a formal defense agreement, as failure to do so could lead to China dominating Asia, as both would indicate that it could not rely on the United States. Due to the military importance of the island.
Colby called on the US to create an “anti-hegemony alliance” that flexibly combines the strengths of allies and partners. “In order for that alliance to survive, China’s attempt to gain control of Taiwan must be rejected,” Colby said.
Meanwhile, the “active denial” proposed by the Quincy-led study group requires a more restrained approach to limiting the scope of the war and making it economically sustainable. The ultimate goal was to “defeat aggression rather than subdue the enemy,” the authors said.
Colby told Nikkei Asia that his strategy was to deny China its objectives, not to subdue it.
The 300-page report offers specific proposals for restructuring the US force structure to fit the new concept. The report suggests a greater focus on the navy and air force, with significant reductions in military and naval presence in the region.
For the Navy, experts have recommended agile fleets consisting of smaller ships, most symbolically by “decisive movements away from larger carriers” to more skilled light aircraft carriers. By 2040, the current U.S. fleet of 11 aircraft carriers should be reduced to 6 and replaced by 12 lighter carriers, including 25 or more F-35B fighter jets. In the meantime, the US-class landing helicopter attack ship already in service could act as a light carrier, the report said.
Big-deck carriers are not only hugely expensive but also a manifestation of national power; At the beginning of the conflict with China, one’s potential loss would be a major blow to morale, the authors said. “Nearly as many sailors and airmen have died in the sinking of a U.S. aircraft carrier as US troops have died in all wars since 9/11,” the report said.
In a proposal that is likely to be controversial, the study group called on the Army and Marine Corps to disband 26 of their combined 71 brigade combat teams and regiments, and suggested “least favorable units for related contingency situations,” such as most naval bases. In Okinawa, move to another location.
In exchange for reducing the Marines in Japan, the Allies could increase readiness and training at more dispersed military and civilian airports, the report said.
The authors suggest a new agreement with Japan that would reduce Tokyo’s host-nation support payments to maintain American bases, redirecting the money to base hardening. He estimates that adjusting US force posture in the region will save वार्षिक 75 billion annually by 2035.