Talk: Promoting Good Governance in the Global Commons: The US, Japan, and Beyond

On November 15, The German Marshall Fund of the United States hosted an online event on “Promoting Good Governance in the Global Commons: The US, Japan, and Beyond.” The global commons – areas beyond the sovereign jurisdiction of any single state – have grown increasingly crowded and contested in recent decades due to changes in the political, economic, and security environment.

Thanks to the generous support of the United States-Japan Foundation, I have spent the past year leading a project examining challenges to governance in the maritime, outer space, and cyberspace domains and opportunities for the United States, Japan, and other countries to cooperate to strengthen their rules and norms. The project brought together leading experts from the US and Japan, and this webinar showcased some of our findings, featuring myself, John Bradford (S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies), Saadia Pekkanen (University of Washington), and Motohiro Tsuchiya (Keio University). The discussion was moderated by Tobias Harris (GMF).

Our new report on “Governing the Global Commons: Challenges and Opportunities for US-Japan Cooperation” will be released in November.

Watch the video on YouTube

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Podcast: How is the Quad Progressing?

I had a great time talking with Hayley Channer (Perth USAsia Centre) on her podcast 15 Minutes in Canberra about the evolution of the Quad and where the grouping is headed next. Our wide-ranging conversation drew upon my recent research, including my papers on with The Future of the Quad and the Emerging Architecture in the Indo-Pacific (with Garima Mohan) and Expanding Engagement among South Korea and the Quad Countries in the Indo-Pacific (with Garima Mohan and Bonnie Glaser) and my edited volume on Building a Quad-South Korea Partnership for Climate Action.

The podcast was released on the heels of the September 23 Quad ministerial meeting, where the four countries’ foreign ministers made several announcements regarding cooperation related to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, counter-terrorism, ransomware, and maritime domain awareness.

Listen to the podcast

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Talk: Trust Building in Asia in an Era of Great Power Competition

I was honored to address several hundred attendees of the Victoria Forum on August 30 as part of a panel on Trust Building in Asia in an Era of Great Power Competition. I was joined by Van Jackson (University of Wellington) and Atsushi Sunami (Sasakawa Peace Foundation) for a conversation moderated by Senator Yuen Pau Woo. Our panel addressed topics such as:

  • What is the current state of trust and engagement in the Indo-Pacific? What are the main drivers contributing to mistrust?
  • How do we understand state behavior in Asia? What are the main institutions, blocs, and partnerships in the region? How do we ensure trust-building among these actors?
  • What is the region’s future direction with respect to state-level engagement and trust? How much should we conceptualize regional leadership and governance when determining future scenarios?
  • What role can outsider powers/actors play in the region? International organizations? NGOs?
  • What are the unique strategic features at the sub-national level? Northeast Asia? Southeast Asia? China? Oceania?

The Victoria Forum is co-hosted by The University of Victoria and the Senate of Canada. Its objective is to bring people together to bridge divides in society through constructive and evidence-based conversations.

Watch the video on YouTube

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New Publication: Building a Quad-South Korea Partnership for Climate Action

I’m happy to announce that my new edited volume Building a Quad-South Korea Partnership for Climate Action has been published. The seven contributions to this volume explore the gains that could be achieved from integrating South Korea into Quad climate initiatives, and in doing so they offer lessons for how minilateral initiatives can be expanded into broader coalitions of partners. In my introduction to the volume, I discuss its four overarching findings:

Minilateral cooperation has the potential to serve as a building block for broader regional and global initiatives. Although climate change cannot be solved by the efforts of five countries acting in isolation, minilateral efforts can be helpful in aligning national interests and policies in preparation for pursuing expanded initiatives with additional countries. The clearest example of this is the potential for the Quad countries and South Korea to form a “climate cooperation club” by creating a voluntary carbon market mechanism under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement. In this way, these five countries could enable each other to meet or even exceed their national goals for carbon reduction in a manner that fully supports their international commitments.6  Once positions are aligned among a small group of countries, this creates opportunities to coordinate their positions within other regional or international organizations to amplify and support parallel efforts to address climate change.

Sharing knowledge and best practices can promote policy effectiveness, innovation, and harmonization. There are no easy answers to the problems posed by climate change. On a fundamental level, regional and global climate information sharing about disasters and hazards needs to be improved to enable effective climate-change mitigation and adaptation. In terms of domestic policy, the governments, companies, and citizenry of these five countries have sought ways to pursue decarbonization and to integrate climate action into their broader economic and social activities. For example, the Quad countries may be able to learn from South Korea’s experience with its Green New Deal and its domestic implementation of green growth principles.7  The industries of these countries could benefit from knowledge transfer in relevant industries such as electric vehicles and renewables.8  Their local governments could also usefully consult with one another on bottom-up policies to promote decarbonization.9  By sharing knowledge, practices, and lessons learned, successful models can be emulated elsewhere and common pitfalls can be avoided.

Climate change is closely interconnected with other economic and security issues, so climate must be considered at a broad strategic level in order to effectively address problems. Climate change cannot be solved in isolation from other issues. It is already causing major cascading consequences around the globe.10  The contributions to this volume demonstrate the broad relevance and impact of climate change for a wide range of policies related to sustainable economic development, low-carbon marine and road transportation, green hydrogen and ammonia, forestry and land use, infrastructure, investment, finance, energy efficiency and conservation, renewable energy, climate information, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, food security, population displacement, and regional and global institutions. Addressing climate change effectively will require a holistic strategic view of climate as it relates to other substantive issues and a whole-of-society approach to finding solutions. Governments such as the Biden administration in the United States have already begun to embed climate change in their broader regional strategies in reflection of this realization.11

It is not necessary for South Korea or other potential partners to join the Quad to achieve gains from cooperation. None of the initiatives or proposals discussed in this volume require South Korea to join the Quad; nor would other potential partner countries need to do so in order to engage in joint climate action. Instead, flexible consultation, coordination, and cooperation between these countries can be used to achieve meaningful progress in addressing issues related to climate change. Moreover, non-member countries around the world will benefit from the gains realized from climate cooperation within groupings such as the Quad since their initiatives will generate non-excludable positive externalities such as reduced carbon generation.

At a time when the international system is shifting away from global multilateral institutions and entering an era of minilateralism, countries are placing their hopes in groupings like the Quad to play a role in addressing pressing problems such as climate change. The true test of these small-scale initiatives, however, will be their ability to build coalitions with external partners to achieve their ambitious goals. This volume offers some insights into the complexity of this process, as well as concrete recommendations for moving forward.

Download the edited volume

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New Publication: Japan’s Defense Policy Faces a Critical Juncture

2022 was expected to be a defining year for Japanese security policy even before the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Public debates and internal negotiations have been ongoing for months over the country’s forthcoming National Security Strategy, National Defence Program Guidelines and Medium-Term Defence Force Program. But the Ukraine war could set the scene for a ‘critical juncture’ in Japanese defence policy making, providing the government an opportunity to enact major changes that may not have been possible before.

I have a new article out in East Asia Forum discussing how the war in Ukraine has given new resonance to calls for an increase in Japanese defense spending.

Read the article

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New Publication: The Future of the Quad and the Emerging Architecture in the Indo-Pacific

In a new policy paper, Garima Mohan and I analyze the Quadrilateral grouping of Australia, India, Japan, and the United States (the Quad), which has come a long way from its origins, establishing itself as a crucial pillar of the Indo-Pacific regional architecture and significantly shifting in tone and focus from its early iterations. Since its revival in 2017, the Quad has been elevated to a leader-level dialogue, it has begun issuing joint statements, and it has developed a new working-group structure to facilitate cooperation. It has also significantly broadened and deepened its agenda to include vaccines, climate change, critical and emerging technologies, infrastructure, cyber, and space. 

These recent changes to the Quad raise several questions about its future trajectory. What are the drivers of engagement, the domestic support, and the bureaucratic capacity in the four countries to continue investing in the Quad?  How well does the Quad’s new working-group structure function, and will the working groups be able to deliver tangible results? How has the Quad’s agenda evolved, and will it return to its initial focus on security challenges? Are the Quad countries open to cooperation with additional countries and, if so, what form will this take? 

This paper analyzes these questions drawing on recent publications, official statements, and interviews with key experts and policymakers in the four countries. In doing so, it offers five key takeaways into the Quad as an evolving part of the Indo-Pacific architecture, as well as a vehicle for achieving the goals of its four member countries.

Download the full paper here

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New Publication: Expanding Engagement among South Korea and the Quad Countries in the Indo-Pacific

In a new policy paper, Garima Mohan, Bonnie Glaser, and I offer insights on how the Quad countries and South Korea can expand their engagement in the Indo-Pacific in eight areas: critical and emerging technologies, infrastructure, health, climate change, education and people-to-people exchange, maritime safety and security, cybersecurity, and outer space.

Download the full report here

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New Publication: How to Mend the Rift Between Japan and South Korea

In our new Foreign Affairs article out today. Bonnie Glaser and I argue that with a new government now in office in Seoul, Japan and South Korea have an opportunity to wipe the slate clean. Still, although conditions are ripe for Japan and South Korea to finally move past their current stalemate, rapprochement will not be easy.

Read the full article

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Talk: What Does the Russo-Ukrainian War Mean for Indo-Pacific Security?

I was delighted to be invited to speak at the University of Sydney’s Center for International Security Studies Global Forum on April 26, 2022. The session explored the implications of the Russo-Ukrainian war for Indo-Pacific security. I was joined on the panel by Justin Hastings (University of Sydney), Jingdong Yuan (University of Sydney) and Tong Zhao (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace). My comments focused on the conflict’s impact on Japanese foreign policy and broader regional political dynamics.

Watch the webinar on YouTube

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Talk: Decoding Indo-Pacific Strategies of Canada, Japan, the USA, and Europe

On March 21, the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy at the University of Toronto organized a webinar on the theme of “Convergence or Divergence? Decoding the Indo-Pacific Strategies of Canada, Japan, the USA, and Europe.” I was honored to speak about the US Indo-Pacific strategy on a distinguished panel with Jonathan Fried (Bennett Jones, LLP), Akiko Fukushima (Tokyo Foundation for Policy Research), Nicols Veron (Bruegel), Deanna Horton (University of Toronto), and Yves Tiberghien (University of British Columbia).

Watch a recording of the session on YouTube

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