The US Navy is struggling to match China’s expanding fleet of warships, which is currently the world’s largest. China’s lead is widening, as experts estimate they can build three warships in the time it takes the US to build one. At the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin discussed this issue, along with China’s increasing aggression in the South China Sea. Experts propose a solution: leveraging the naval capabilities of US allies in South Korea and Japan, who construct high-quality, cost-effective warships comparable to or better than China’s. 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 advantage is not solely in numbers but also in superior firepower, as displayed by their Type 055 destroyer, which beat some US Navy destroyers. Possible alternatives are South Korea’s Sejong-class destroyers and Japan’s Maya-class destroyers, which offer similar or superior capabilities at lower costs. Japan emphasizes affordable quality, while South Korea is the best at producing adaptable warships. Despite legal and security challenges, collaborating with these allies could help the US Navy narrow the gap with China. By exploring partnerships and utilizing their efficient production processes, the US can maintain its strategic position in the Indo-Pacific region and counter China’s growing fleet.