The U.S. and its allies are laying the groundwork for a potential conflict in the Pacific, a shift characterized by moves to strengthen their militaries and deepen cooperation, experts told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
Scholars and officials disagree as to whether China or North Korea will instigate the first major armed conflict in the Asia-Pacific region of the 21st century, but the consensus is that either one could spark a war, whether deliberately or accidentally, and soon. Recent U.S. moves to bolster troop presence in the region and reinforce collaboration with Japan, Australia and other partners are meant to prevent a bloody and potentially devastating fight, but deterrence will become increasingly difficult, experts told the DCNF.
“The challenges posed by China and North Korea have grown, and the United States and its allies are vulnerable and underprepared for some plausible conflict scenarios,” Patrick Cronin, Asia-Pacific security chair at the Hudson Institute, explained to the DCNF.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine served as a wake-up call for U.S. allies in the region, including Japan and Taiwan, and provided a model for how to pre-position equipment, supply lines and bases of operation in preparation for a future conflict, Lt. Gen. James Bierman, the Marine Corps’ top commanding officer in Japan, recently told the Financial Times.
“We call that setting the theater. And we are setting the theater in Japan, in the Philippines, in other locations,” he told the FT.
A visit of Japanese heads of defense and foreign affairs to Washington on Jan. 11 underscored a changing attitude in formerly pacifist Japan toward the growing threat North Korea and China pose to the region. Chinese ballistic missiles, fired as part of China’s largest-ever military exercises in the Taiwan Strait, splashed down in Japan’s so-called exclusive economic zone in August.