The United States Navy is struggling to keep up with China’s growing fleet of warships, which is already the world’s largest. China’s numerical advantage over the US is widening, with estimates suggesting they can build three warships in the time it takes the US to build one. US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin attended the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, where participants discussed this concern along with China’s increasing aggression in the South China Sea. Experts propose a potential solution to address China’s naval advantage: leveraging the naval capabilities of US allies in South Korea and Japan. These countries have been building high-spec, affordable warships. Their vessels are comparable to China’s and, in some cases, even superior. However, US law currently prevents the Navy from purchasing foreign-built ships or building in foreign countries, citing security concerns and a desire to protect the domestic shipbuilding industry.

China’s naval growth is not only about quantity but also superior firepower. For instance, China’s Type 055 destroyer outmatches some of the US Navy’s destroyers in terms of firepower. South Korea’s Sejong, the Great-class destroyers, and Japan’s Maya-class destroyers offer viable alternatives. These ships provide similar or better capabilities at lower costs. Japan focuses on affordable quality, while South Korea excels at producing versatile warships. Despite the legal and security challenges, collaborating with these allies could help the US Navy bridge the gap with China. Exploring partnerships and utilizing their efficient production processes could be a way for the US to maintain its strategic position in the Indo-Pacific region and counter China’s growing fleet.