A leading think tank has warned of a nuclear war, if US military strategy involving Australia among other nations to counter the growing power of China in the western Pacific, were to proceed.
According to a new paper by The Australian Strategic Policy Institute, the ''AirSea Battle'' concept, which Washington strategists were developing to keep the US's grip on its sea and air power near China, contained ''uncertainties and potential shortfalls'' that could heighten the nuclear risk.
The concept risked incurring the enmity of the Chinese army. The author of the paper, Dr Bejamin Schreer, senior analyst at the institute has called on the Australian government to keep a cautious distance from the strategy for now.
The strategy was likely to have a role for Australia particularly with US Marines stationed in Darwin, the capital city of the Australian state, Northern Territory. The plan assumes any conflict between the US and China - most likely over Taiwan or Chinese skirmishing with Japan - would remain below the level of nuclear strikes.
However, Schreer notes that "such an outcome is far from certain". He goes on to say that any US plan to take on China would involve "blinding" the People's Liberation Army with hits to its surveillance, intelligence and command systems.
He says, this could lead to panic on the Chinese side, which would "consequently increase the chances of Chinese nuclear pre-emption."
According to Schreer, Australia had an interest in contributing to the US military rebalance in the Asian region, and hosting of US training in the Northern Territory had displayed the commitment to the ANZUS alliance.
"Fully embracing the logic behind Air-Sea Battle or developing specific military capabilities to underpin the concept's implementation are so far not in Australia's interests," he said.
"Openly signing up for the concept would send a strong political message to China that the ADF is now actively planning and equipping for a potential war with the PLA (People's Liberation Army)."
Concurrently with building up its military, China had developed a strategy to deny US forces the ability to operate in the Taiwan Strait region, South China Sea and adjacent Pacific Ocean. A significant submarine force as also missiles designed to hit US aircraft carriers formed part of Chinese strategy.
The US response has come by the way of Air-Sea Battle concept that was being compared to the Air-Land doctrine, developed to fight the numerically superior Warsaw Pact during the Cold War.