John Kerry and  Yang Jiechi
United States Secretary of State John Kerry was in China recently for talks on a variety of issues, including seeking diplomatic solutions for the South China Sea. Lintao Zhang/Getty

A new study has warned US policy makers that a war between China and US could erupt if regional disputes, such as the South China Sea, continue to inflame tensions. The report, 'War with China: Thinking Through the Unthinkable' has urged political leaders on both sides to express caution when handling the situation.

David Gompert, President Barack Obama's former chief intelligence advisor, was responsible for leading the US Army-commissioned report. Upon examining the prospects of the two countries going to war, the report concluded that a war between China and the US would be "prolonged and destructive" but also "inconclusive".

Gompert told ABC News: "War between the United States and China could be so ruinous for both countries, for East Asia, and for the world that it might seem unthinkable. Yet it is not: China and the United States are at loggerheads over several regional disputes that could lead to military confrontation or even violence between them."

The report noted that if a war broke out between the two countries today, China's losses would greatly exceed US losses, with the gap continuing to grow as fighting persisted. However, it warned that by 2025 the gap could be much smaller and could see US suffer greater setbacks.

Additionally, the study recommended that the US should improve their ability to sustain "intense military operations", as well as invest more in submarines and theatre missiles to reduce the Chinese threat. Furthermore, US political leaders have been urged to conduct contingency plans with allies such as Japan in order to prepare for such a war.

Gompert continued: "If an incident occurred or a crisis overheated, both have an incentive to strike enemy forces before being struck by them. And if hostilities erupted, both have ample forces, technology, industrial might, and personnel to fight across vast expanses of land, sea, air, space, and cyberspace."

Tensions have been rising between the US and China, particularly in the months following The Hague's ruling against China, noting that they had "no legal basis" to claim resources in the South China Sea. China has blamed the ruling on interference from the US, with many in the country boycotting American companies such as Apple and KFC in response.