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What is the state of play in the East and South China Seas, and what might be the future of maritime rules and norms in the region? To answer these questions, the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security convened several experts for a public panel discussion on March 30, 2018. With panelists representing Asian, European, and American perspectives, the panel reflected the mission of the Scowcroft Center’s burgeoning Asia program—bridging the Atlantic and Pacific policymaking communities to build trans-Atlantic-Pacific partnerships and confront common challenges.
In today’s new media environment, the opportunities for instant rhetoric add a novel element to national and international discourse that can complicate relationships between countries and leaders, as with China’s recent condemnation of President Trump’s December 2017 tweet on North Korea. With the prevalence of social and digital media, anyone with an Internet connection can contribute to the international dialogue. This creates both opportunities and challenges for leaders as they work to maintain national, regional, and economic security.
In November 2017, when President Trump visited Japan, Prime Minister Abe and President Trump agreed to work together to promote peace and prosperity in the region by developing the Indo-Pacific as free and open. In addition, particularly after President Trump gave a speech at the APEC CEO Summit in Da Nang, Vietnam, on November 10th, the concept of a "free and open Indo-Pacific" moved squarely into the spotlight and became a priority for policy makers of the United States and Japan. The two countries are about to initiate the process of elaborating this concept, and much work lies ahead, including how to coordinate their focus and approach, how to divide their roles, and how to conduct outreach to allies and partners.
Reimagining the US-Republic of Korea Partnership in the Trans-Pacific Century
 
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As the Trump administration nears the end of its first year in office, it is a propitious moment to take stock of the emerging US policy for an uncertain and very dynamic security and economic environment in the Trans-Pacific region. In order to most effectively address the region’s unfolding economic and security challenges and opportunities, the United States should work more closely than ever before with its like-minded allies and partners from both the Trans-Pacific and Trans-Atlantic communities to develop common approaches. 
 
The culmination of a full year of analysis by the Atlantic Council’s Asia-Pacific Strategy Task Force, A Strategy for the Trans-Pacific Century argues for deeper engagement between the United States’ Atlantic and Pacific partners to uphold the liberal rules-based order in Asia and beyond. As the rise of China creates reverberations felt not only within the Pacific region, but through the Atlantic as well, cooperation between these partners is needed now more than ever. Across Asia, Europe, and America, many nations share a common interest in protecting a rules-based order that has guaranteed more than half a century of freedom, prosperity, and growth. In their review of the task force’s findings, Dr. Matt Kroenig and Dr. Miyeon Oh, the paper’s co-authors, find that this cooperation cannot afford to take the form of either staunch resistance to change or acceptance of a bare-bones order. Instead, these partners must seek to reinvigorate the order by adapting it to a new global power dynamic, as articulated through a five-pillar strategy: strengthening security cooperation between regional allies; practicing hard-headed engagement with China; adapting the regional economic architecture for an open order; partnering to address the emerging issue areas of the 2020s; and promoting good governance, the rule of law, democracy, and universally recognized human rights.

To mark the paper’s launch, the Atlantic Council hosted a panel with co-authors Dr. Kroenig and Dr. Oh, who were joined by Ambassador Paula Dobriansky and Ambassador Ashok Mirpuri to discuss their thoughts on the future of the strategic order, grounding their comments in their individual regional perspectives from America and from Asia. In their opening remarks, all four panelists concurred on the overriding importance of US-China relations in the coming decades. Ambassador Mirpuri emphasized how China has gained power through its economic ascendancy, becoming the dominant trading partner of all Southeast Asian countries, while Ambassador Dobriansky agreed with Dr. Kroenig and Dr. Oh in asserting the need to strike a balance between cooperation and confrontation when dealing with China. The panelists also affirmed the need for strong partnerships in this new era, with Dr. Oh stressing the role of regional buy-in within Asia even as Ambassador Mirpuri highlighted the role of the US as a resident power of the Pacific, and the potential for tighter ties with Europe. As summed up by Ambassador Dobriansky, thinking around connectedness and alliances—whether informal or formal—must be central to forthcoming attempts to strengthen the foundation of the international rules-based order.

The panelists continued to build on these messages in the audience Q&A session, during which they covered a wide range of issues that spanned media coverage of the Asia-Pacific, the KORUS FTA, and the South China Sea. Two parallel themes emerged in this discussion, with one set of questions focusing on security and military strategy, and another set revolving around the economy and strategic trade. On security, Dr. Oh restated the need for the US and Trump to provide strong reassurances in the face of current challenges, with the hope that his coming trip to the region would encourage him to do so. On trade, the panelists echoed the paper on one of its main points, with Dr. Kroenig stating that they did not want to see the region divided into two Cold War blocs, but hoped to see Asia go beyond a zero-sum game. Ambassador Mirpuri likewise noted Singapore’s desire to see a balance in trade between the US and China, even as he underscored the role of US investment—not merely in terms of formal structures, but also in terms of US business presence. These questions were not strictly independent of each other: Ambassador Mirpuri noted that when discussing trade agreements, the Trump administration has focused on matters of economic benefit (or lack thereof), whereas their Asian counterparts have seen them as strategic agreements intended to anchor the US in the region. Both he and Ambassador Dobriansky agreed that a significant question facing policymakers was how to bring these economic and strategic imperatives together, stressing the paper’s premise that any future international order in the Asia-Pacific must be grounded in the preferences of countries in the region.

A Strategy for the Trans-Pacific Century is the twelfth volume in the Atlantic Council Strategy Papers series. The series is designed to enrich the public debate and build consensus on the great strategic challenges of our time, as well as to help shape strategic thinking in US and allied governments, the private and nonprofit sectors, and the global media. Check out all the volumes here.
The Trump administration is said to be drafting a new arms package for Taiwan that could include advanced rocket systems and anti-ship missiles. The package is expected to be significantly larger than one that was shelved at the end of the Obama administration, US officials told Reuters on the eve of a visit to Beijing by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson two months ago. The United States has long committed itself to providing Taiwan with the means to defend itself and have engaged in unofficial diplomatic relations since the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979. American presidents have engaged in robust arms sales to Taiwan since the Carter administration and have sold Taiwan more than $30 billion in weapons since then. Current cross-strait relations are strained, and Beijing is likely to react to any arms sale to Taiwan. How will this arms sale affect Taiwan’s defense and security, how will Beijing respond, and how will the arms sales package fit into the Trump administration’s broader strategy in the Asia-Pacific?

On June 9, the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security’s Asia Security Initiative hosted a Cross-Straits Series event on the next US-Taiwan arms sale. The discussion brings together Mr. Abraham Denmark, Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for East Asia of the US Department of Defense; Mr. Ian Easton, Research Fellow of Project 2049 Institute; and Ms. Susan Lawrence, Specialist, Asian Affairs of the Congressional Research Service. The discussion was moderated by Ms. Shannon Tiezzi, Editor at The Diplomat.
On April 14, 2017 the Atlantic Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security hosted a conversation with the honorable Jin Liqun, president of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). The discussion focused on his vision for the development of the AIIB, its approach to providing financing for Asian infrastructure, and the AIIB's internal governance process, as well as his thinking on multilateralism in the Asian-Pacific region. The AIIB celebrated its first year of operations in January and to date has invested over $2 billion in twelve projects across Asia.

Following a warm welcome and introductory remarks by Fred Kempe, president and CEO of the Atlantic Council, President Jin proceeded to outline ongoing improvements and future expansions to the AIIB. He introduced AIIB’s current objective to bridge relations between Asia and the United States and followed with the slogan, “our bank is lean, clean, and green” and emphasized the importance of operating the AIIB according to the highest international standard. President Jin stated that over the span of two years AIIB has dramatically grown, bringing together 52 member states, with another 18 prospective candidates. It is in the forefront of the promotion of infrastructure projects in the Asia-Pacific region and developing countries.
On March 7, the Atlantic Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security hosted a discussion on the rise of intra-Asian defense cooperation, its significance to regional dynamics, and potential implications to the US and global power dynamics. Recent partnerships range from Japan’s defense cooperation with the Philippines and Vietnam, as well as India-Vietnam, Australia-India-Japan-US, Malaysia-Indonesia-Philippines maritime cooperation, and others.

Following a warm welcome and introductory remarks by Mr. Barry Pavel, Senior Vice President and Director of the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security, Mr. Gordon Lubold, Pentagon reporter at The Wall Street Journal moderated the panel on the increase of Asian defense spending and the evolving network of intra-Asian defense coalitions. The panel featured Ms. Lindsey Ford, director of Asian security at the Asia Society Policy Institute; Rear Admiral Michael McDevitt, senior fellow at CNA Strategic Studies; Mr. Randy Schriver, founding partner at Armitage International LLC; and Mr. John Watts, non-resident senior fellow of the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security at the Atlantic Council.
On December 2, the Atlantic Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security hosted a discussion on the incoming administration’s Asia policy and its potential impacts for the region. The session was led by David Wertime, a senior editor at Foreign Policy magazine.

Following a welcome and introductory remarks by the Honorable Jon M. Huntsman, Jr., Chairman of the Atlantic Council, Wertime moderated a panel on President-Elect Trump’s Asia policy featuring Russell Hsiao, executive director of the Global Taiwan Institute; Shihoko Goto, senior associate for Northeast Asia at the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Asia Program; and Meredith Miller, vice president at Albright Stonebridge Group.
Suspected Chinese hackers have spent years sifting through other Asian countries' computer networks, which often don't have basic protections against cyberattacks.


    

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