Through the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security, the Project on Shaping the Asia-Pacific Future seeks to formulate practical policy recommendations related to some of the most pressing and fundamental requirements for long-term security and prosperity in the region. It focuses on the development of durable understandings and measures affecting strategic military stability and on fostering effective institutions and agreements supporting open and rules-based movement of goods, services, and capital.

Over the past two decades there has been a steady growth in military spending and capabilities in Asia, accompanied by bolder expressions of nationalist sentiment. The risk of nuclear and missile proliferation in Asia is also increasing as North Korea continues to develop its nuclear and missile capability. Moreover, there are not accepted codes of conduct governing behavior in the fields of cyber, maritime, or space. Nor at a broader level of strategic military doctrine are there regional understandings on the components of stability, such as measures for managing the risks of miscalculation. In the economic field, there is fragmentation in rules-based arrangements—a multiplicity of overlapping and inconsistent trade agreements and the emergence of parallel institutions. In short, Asia lacks effective regional economic, security and political institutions even as it has grown dramatically in all three realms on a national basis.

Led by Project Director and Senior Fellow Olin Wethington, the Scowcroft Center will seek to develop actionable recommendations to governments through consultation and dialogue with forward-thinking individuals and collaborative partners in the Asia-Pacific region. At the outset, the Project has identified three specific issue modules where new thinking might be constructive.


ECONOMIC and FINANCIAL ARCHITECTURE: In recent years the institutional framework in the Asia-Pacific region in the trade, monetary and financial field is becoming more complex and subject to new economic and political demands and pressures. China is exerting leadership in building new institutions and arrangements that to some extent parallel the established regional order. These alternative institutions are still evolving and their governance, operating practices and norms are not yet in place. How the United States and its closest partners, such as Japan, South Korea, Australia and ASEAN, respond, including adaptation of established institutions, may influence the development of these new parallel institutions, the role they play in the region and their relationship with more established institutions.

CODES OF CONDUCT FOR THE GLOBAL COMMONS: Important dimensions of the global commons, most particularly maritime, cyber, and space, lack understandings governing behavior by state actors. Tensions between countries in the region in these areas are raising the risk of conflict and instability, including through accident or miscalculation. Competing claims to islands, maritime waters, and sea-based resources are raising tensions in the East China Sea and South China Sea. Similarly, in the cyber field there do not exist standards of conduct channeling the behavior of state actors and protecting legitimate rights to privacy and the flow of information. Incidents of hacking suggest mutual vulnerability. In the strategic domain of space, both the United States and China are heavily invested, yet are increasingly vulnerable to counter-space threats. It should be in the mutual interest of the major powers of the region to address in pragmatic ways risks to security and prosperity in the global commons.

DENUCLEARIZATION OF THE KOREAN PENINSULA: Apart from security risks related to territorial disputes, Northeast Asia presents the most unstable geography in Asia—arising from the continuing growth in North Korea’s nuclear and missile capabilities. This is an immediate threat, bringing into play the United States, China, South Korea, Japan, and Russia and their common interest in denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. However, the Six Party talks are dormant. North Korea is not in compliance with prior commitments and is aggressively pursuing development of its nuclear/missile capabilities. The time may have come for a new assessment of the pathway to denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.