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Pentagon says US lacks logistical support for Asia military conflicts

US sees Taiwan Strait or East China Sea as possible flashpoints

U.S. Navy ships in South China Sea. (Reuters photo)

U.S. Navy ships in South China Sea. (Reuters photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The U.S. Department of Defense believes the military lacks adequate logistics capacity in Asia if a military conflict were to break out in the region.

The assessment appears in the program planning document for the U.S. Pacific Deterrence Initiative (PDI) submitted to Congress in mid-April, Nikkei reported. “Current theater logistics posture and capability to sustain the force are inadequate to support operations specifically in a contested environment,” Nikkei cited the document as saying.

The PDI was set up last year to bolster the capabilities and preparedness of the American military in the Indo-Pacific region. It allocates funding in response to China’s continued military buildup in the Indo-Pacific, according to the report.

The Pentagon estimated that the PDI will need US$27.1 billion (NT$800 billion) in funds over five years beginning in October 2023. The Pentagon suggested putting US$1.02 billion into logistics during that five-year time frame.

In the event of a military conflict in Asia, the ability of the U.S. to stockpile enough ammunition, fuel, medical supplies, and food at forward locations before an outbreak is vital, Nikkei said. The Chinese military would likely try to deny access to American forces beyond the second island chain, which runs from Japan’s Ogasawara Islands to the U.S. territory of Guam to Papua New Guinea, Nikkei added.

Transport planes and tankers sent to refuel American forces would likely become targets of the Chinese military, per the report.

The Department of Defense proposed bolstering jet fuel storage capacity at the U.S. Marine air station located in Iwakuni, Japan, and at Yokota Air Base in Tokyo. “Bulk tanks will store the war reserve jet fuel required to sustain contingency operations pending resupply by tanker ships,” according to the Pentagon document.

These moves point to the Pentagon’s assessment that a military conflict could break out in the Taiwan Strait or the East China Sea, the report said.

The PDI will also increase Guam’s missile defense capabilities in response to Chinese ballistic, hypersonic, and cruise missiles. Washington is also developing high-speed maneuverable support ships destined for the Indo-Pacific, which are able to quickly deliver weapons and other supplies to islands, per the report.

As the U.S. shifts toward a more agile and distributed military force for the Indo-Pacific, logistics are of the utmost importance.

In a type of warfare referred to as expeditionary advanced base operations, the U.S. Marines would look to disperse forces along the first island chain, possibly including Okinawa, Taiwan, and the Philippines, according to Nikkei. This would see staging bases temporarily set up for anti-ship missiles, air defenses, and intelligence gathering, which are used for a short time before moving on to another location, the report said. Analysts told Nikkei that having forces more spread out would make them harder to resupply.

Another issue is China’s increasingly accurate missiles, which could potentially target American military logistics networks. To counter China’s growing military capabilities, it will be vital for the U.S. to lean on its allies in the Indo-Pacific region to shore up logistics in the event of any future military conflict.