Allies Offer US Strong Advantages, And Some Risk, In China Rivalry

America counts heavily on a cordon of allies stretching from Japan to the north down to Thailand, and across to India, in the highly unlikely event of war with China. But these same allies could draw the U.S. into strictly local disputes in which America does not always have a clear security interest and which could destabilize the region.

Asian powers including India and Japan possess large, sophisticated navies and air arms which, combined with U.S. Pacific forces, could outgun the rapidly-modernizing People's Liberation Army in wartime. And in peacetime, these same regional powers can help as counters to Beijing's growing influence.

In most conflicts short of war in Indo-Pacific Asia, however, Washington must be careful not to take sides, for backing allies in even minor spats could come at the cost of regional stability, experts say......