U.S. military strength has been considerably weakened even since tensions grew against Beijing and Moscow due to the former’s threat of unification with Taiwan by force and the latter’s invasion of Ukraine, according to an analysis report issued by the Heritage Foundation, a U.S. think tank, on Tuesday. It also pointed out that North Korea can take military action if the weakening of the U.S. Forces causes any vacuum in the extended deterrence of U.S. nuclear forces on the Korean Peninsula.
The think tank’s report released the 2023 Index of U.S. Military Strength on Tuesday, rating the U.S. military “weak” based on a comprehensive analysis of the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Space Force, and nuclear weapons.
The report analyzed that the capabilities of U.S. fighter jets and bombers have dropped to 40 percent of the levels seen in the 1980s due to the delay in purchasing the F-35 jets and the lack of pilot drills. The score of the U.S. Air Force has gone down from “weak” last year to “very weak.” The report was concerned that it is the lowest level in the history of the U.S. Air Force.
The number of Chinese military vessels increased from 216 to 360 between 2005 and 2020, whereas only five battleships were newly joined during the same period, increasing the number of U.S. warships from 291 to 296. The readiness of the U.S. military was rated lower from “marginal” to “weak.” The U.S. Army was assessed as “marginal,” while the Space Force scored “weak.”
Although U.S. nuclear capabilities were classified as “strong,” the report warned that transport systems and warheads have lost trust with nuclear systems deteriorating over time.
In a section where the report assesses the level of global risk, North Korea’s behavior or threats was rated “testing,” following “hostile” and “aggressive.” while its capability of threats was classified as “gathering.” Going beyond nuclear deterrence, North Korea has worked to develop actionable strategies for (nuclear) war, the report analyzed, adding that if the U.S. nuclear-extended deterrence is deemed to have deteriorated, the regime may likely consider the environment conducive to military behavior.