27 February 2014 - 01 March 2014

Power rivalries in Asia: towards a new arms race?

Chair: Ambassador Iftekhar Chowdhury PhD

The importance and topicality of the issues we were discussing were reflected in the size and quality of the attendance. We struggled to identify practical ways forward, which itself only raised levels of concern about the risks of future conflict. However, the depth of analysis and understanding around the table was striking. Sensitive chairmanship helped to ensure that tensions in Asia were not reflected in the tone of our debate, which remained serious but polite throughout.

The risk of conflict between states is high, though short, sharp confrontations are more likely than full-on wars in the next decade. The factors for instability outweigh those for stability, even though economic interdependence is high and no country actually wants a war. The combination of lack of multilateral mechanisms, old-fashioned nationalism and territorial disputes is particularly worrying. The rise of China, including its military rise and apparently greater assertiveness, is clearly a cause of anxiety for many countries in the region, only partly compensated for by the continuing US presence and ‘rebalancing’. There is no classic arms race for now, but defence spending is rising, and the nature of this spending, for example on more expeditionary capability, is also worrying. Meanwhile arms control measures are conspicuous by their absence. Lack of transparency about Chinese capacity and intentions is seen by many as a continuing problem. What does the ‘China Dream’, oft-cited by the current leadership, actually mean?

US-China relations are fundamental to future peace in the region, and there are positive aspects to point to. But too much should not be expected of a relationship which is bound to be one of rivalry in many ways. Strategic trust is certainly lacking for now, not helped by deliberate Chinese ambiguity about policy and lack of military ties. Other relationships between big players are also crucial and potentially game-changing, for example between Japan and India, Japan and Russia, and China and Pakistan.

Multilateral institutions are not lacking in the area, but effective fora for discussion of security issues are. The multiplicity of institutions means conversations do happen, and they are improving in quality, but there is still a long way to go. Inclusion of both China and the US is important. Meanwhile confidence-building measures and control mechanisms are urgently needed. Cold War Europe has good practice to offer, but this is unlikely to be acceptable to China if it has a European label. Nevertheless, outside powers, notably Europe, cannot afford to stand back from the strategic security issues of the region, since they have a lot to lose if things go wrong. They should promote rule of law and multilateral engagement.

The Korean peninsula was seen as posing the greatest danger of future conflict, with the new and apparently brutal young leader of North Korea a particular threat. Patience with him and North Korea in general was running low, even from the Chinese. Was forced reunification now more likely? China was certainly not there yet, but more pressure on Pyong Yang was needed from all quarters. Five-party talks would be more valuable than trying to resume six-party talks. Japan-Chinese relations, particularly over the disputed islands, were seen as the second most worrying potential flashpoint, with India-Pakistan not far behind. A new Indian Prime Minister from the BJP might for example be much less tolerant of a fresh terrorist attack. The NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan was also liable to renew tensions in south Asia and more widely. In south-east Asia, ASEAN had played a vital role in defusing tensions but there were widespread concerns about China and her territorial claims. The Philippine proposal for a code of conduct was worth pursuing.

The list of recommendations includes suggestions on re-addressing history in north-east Asia, more transparency about defence spending, and more track 2 diplomacy. Our overall conclusion was that relying on self-restraint and muddling through were unlikely to be enough in an area with so many live tensions.

How serious are the risks of state-state conflict in Asia?
All participants recognised the risks of conflict which the continent was facing in several places, from a combination of unresolved territorial disputes, rising nationalism, and lack of institutional control mechanisms, regional or global. Those of a more optimistic frame of mind emphasised the factors for continuing stability, in a region which had been largely peaceful for nearly 50 years. No country wanted, or was actively preparing for, an offensive war against another. Young people in the region certainly had no appetite for confrontation. Others more inclined to see the glass half-empty pointed to many reasons why the peace was fragile, and increasingly so. While no country might want war, the centenary of 1914 reminded us that this was no guarantee against it happening.

The balance of opinion overall was that a major war in the region in the next 10 years, whilst certainly possible, was not probable, but that short, sharp clashes – ‘wars of humiliation’ – were likely. The obvious risk was that the latter would not be contained, despite the underlying intentions of the participants, because the political forces pushing for escalation could quickly become irresistible. There were no clear rules of engagement in force, tactically or strategically.

We discussed at various points whether it made sense to look at these issues on a continental basis at all. Some argued that Asia was not only huge, but also an artificial construct, and that generalisations about the region as a whole could tell us little. We should therefore look at the sub-regions separately, because they were so different and so geographically distant from each other. Others took the view that, while of course each sub-region had its own dynamics which needed to be studied, it was not enough to take such a siloed approach. Problems in one part of the region inevitably spilled over into other parts, and the inter-relationships between the sub-regions, and between the big players in the sub-regions, were important elements in what happened – for example, the relations between Japan and India, and between Pakistan and China, had continental significance. Moreover some major features of the scene, such as the rise of China and the nature of the US response, were present across all sub-regions in one way or another. In practice our approach was a combination of the regional and sub-regional, and this Note reflects that.

Looking at the region as a whole, the factors for stability could be listed as follows:-

  • the imperative of economic growth: governments were under pressure to maintain high growth rates, and in some cases their legitimacy rested on this. Military conflict would inevitably damage growth prospects, at least in the short term;
  • economic interdependence, which was at a very high level between some of the players, e.g. in North-East Asia, and involved not only trade but also large investments in all directions;
  • the US presence in the region, as an important guarantor of stability as well as a valuable counterweight to the rise of China in the eyes of many countries;
  • the presence of nuclear weapons, which raised the danger levels of many potential conflicts, and could therefore act as a deterrent (but see below);
  • the example and influence of ASEAN in reducing tensions and increasing prosperity;
  • the network of regional institutions, which taken together amounted to ties that bound and constrained;
  • a younger generation of “netizens” who knew more about, and therefore understood better, other nations;
  • some useful defence co-operation, for example in areas like disaster relief.

But there were also plenty of factors of instability:-

  • the sense of insecurity and anxiety that the rise of China has created in the minds of many other countries;
  • increasing defence spending in many countries, and the nature of that spending;
  • rising nationalism and populism;
  • toxic legacies from history in sensitive areas;
  • insecurity arising from increasingly sophisticated nuclear weapon technologies, and lack of control mechanisms;
  • lack of good institutional mechanisms to discuss and resolve security issues;
  • unresolved territorial disputes;
  • climate change impact and resource insecurities (food, water, energy);
  • complacency (young Asians have no experience of war and may fear it less than they should);
  • the increased salience of nationalist attitudes through the social media;
  • domestic instability in some countries, leading to political displacement activity involving foreign ‘enemies’;
  • an end to the period of rapid economic growth could trigger new political dynamics;
  • large income inequalities between and within states are potential sources of internal and external conflict.

Some of the positive and negative factors are minor images of each other, for example the influence of the internet. Some depend on a particular political point of view, for example whether the rise of China should be seen as an element of instability and the presence of the US as a factor of stability. Many participants were genuinely unclear about what they should make of Xi Jinping’s emphasis on the China Dream. But the length of the instability factors’ list compared with that for stability factors was nevertheless striking. Underlying all this was a lack of strategic trust across the region, and of confidence-building measures. We also recognised that many Asian states were relatively recent constructs, with territorial issues left over from the colonial era, and were still finding their feet as sovereign nations.

Looking on a more sub-regional basis, where did we see the biggest risks? North Korea was at the top of virtually everyone’s list, especially under its young, unpredictable and apparently brutal leader. China/Japan tension came second, followed by India/Pakistan. But there were other areas of concern too. On the positive side, Taiwan rated barely a mention in this conference.

Asian arms race(s)?
The consensus was that we were not currently looking at classic, cold-war-style arms races, either in the region, or any of the sub-regions. This was despite the absence of clear data or a reliable methodology which would have enabled us to establish this more scientifically. The general view was also that focusing on defence spending was not the most useful or fruitful way of understanding what was happening. It was better to look at other drivers of potential conflict, for example psychological or political factors, and to focus on intent. We also needed to factor in soft power, which was very important in regional perceptions.

However there were several important caveats to this. The first was the obvious point that defence spending in the region was rising steadily. While some of this was natural, as states became richer, and some of it reflected rises in the wages of the military, rather than increases in capacity, the trend was nevertheless striking and potentially worrying.

Secondly, some of the increases in spending were in areas which were worrying and potentially destabilising. For example, states in the region were spending more on expeditionary capacity, particularly air and naval power, than static forces like land armies. Such capacities were more likely to bump into one another, with all that this might lead to in terms of misunderstandings and accidental clashes, which could then prove hard to control. Some specific areas of spending were particularly worrying, such as submarine capabilities in South and South East Asia, and not always easy to make sense of. Again such capabilities tended to increase the risk of potentially destabilising accidents.

Thirdly, the concern felt elsewhere in Asia about the rise of China in general was exacerbated by the steady increase in Chinese defence spending over the last 30 years, with double digit increases the norm. Some of this could no doubt be explained: by the need to catch up and modernise after a previous period of low spending; by the new possibilities, in this area as in others, for a more prosperous China; by rises in military wages; by exchange rate changes; and by greater readiness to disclose military spending than in the past. Chinese capabilities also remained well below those of the US overall, though the picture was rather different if the comparison was with the US’s capabilities in the region. But the spending rise was nevertheless perceived as potentially threatening by China’s neighbours, and by others inside and outside the region, particularly when there continued to be a significant lack of transparency about Chinese capabilities, doctrine and intentions. It was leading others to spend more, including some not in the immediate vicinity such as India, now a major arms buyer. China might seem to be a status quo power internationally, but this looked much less clear from a regional point of view. The question of lack of transparency about what China really wanted was an issue to which we returned frequently, in different contexts.

Nuclear weapons were another important and potentially alarming facet of defence capability in the region, with at least five states with nuclear weapons of some kind already (China, Russia, India, Pakistan and North Korea) and a sixth, Iran, close to having them (if the region was thought of as extending that far). The NPT had little real credibility in the region. While, again, there was no nuclear arms race comparable to that between the US and the Soviet Union during the Cold War, Chinese capability was obviously increasing, as they sought to develop a credible second strike capacity. India and Pakistan were following each other closely, without all the kind of command and control facilities and safeguards against accidents we might want to see, while the potential risks of proliferation from others’ worries about North Korea (and Iran) were very clear.

Ballistic missile defence plans and technology could alter the parameters significantly in the future. We also recognised that we had not given enough attention to cyber warfare capacity, which was potentially highly destabilising, even game-changing, or to chemical and biological capacity, which could be particularly worrying in the case of North Korea.

Overall, even if arms races as such were not the most salient feature of the region for now, it was clear that there were no grounds whatever for complacency. Countries were watching each other very closely, and were not necessarily reassured by what they saw – for example any increases in Japanese defence spending, however small, were watched very closely, and all too readily over-interpreted, by China. The danger of competitive upward spirals was certainly there.

One striking absence, from the region, and indeed from our discussions, was any serious consideration of arms control measures. There were plenty of examples of good international practice, and methods which had helped elsewhere. There was a need for a serious look at what might be possible, in order to help increase mutual trust in the region.

US-China relations
The bilateral relationship between the US and China was generally seen as vital to the future stability of the region, and to that of the sub-regions, particularly North East Asia. The good news was that neither side wanted confrontation, and both wanted to find effective ways of working together. The constructive dialogue at the top level was a helpful sign of this, as was the intensive contact at many other levels, with the notable exception of the two militaries. There were common interests. For example the two countries were closely bound together economically, unlike the US and Soviet Union at the time of the cold war. At the same time, not too much could or should be expected of a relationship between one major power undoubtedly on the rise, both economically and politically, and another which could be seen, and was seen by some in the region, as at least in relative decline. The latter description was contested by some participants, but the important point was the perception of some of those most concerned. The result was inevitably a large element of competition and rivalry. If strategic mistrust was added on top, it was clear that there were bound to be misunderstandings and tensions, and a bumpy ride from time to time.

From a US perspective, the opaque nature of much of China’s decision-making machinery, and the lack of transparency about military capabilities and intentions, combined with the perception of much greater Chinese assertiveness in the region in recent years, were major obstacles to greater trust and co-operation. It was perhaps understandable that the still weaker power wanted to maintain a level of unpredictability and uncertainty about her position, and to refuse to give a degree of comfort to US commanders in the region. Ambiguity was a necessary element of deterrence from a Chinese point of view. The Americans by contrast could afford to be open about their well-known military superiorities. But the lack of transparency and the constant flat refusal to allow meaningful military to military conversations were nevertheless real obstacles. And while unpredictability and ambiguity could be seen as a useful, even legitimate, tactics in dealing with another big power, they were bound to be seen by smaller neighbours as uncomfortable, even threatening. This helped to explain the almost universal perception among Asian countries outside China that the US presence and military strength in the region were vital for future stability, and their consequent welcome for the US pivot, or rebalancing.

From a Chinese point of view, the US rebalancing was inevitably seen in a somewhat different light, as a strategic challenge and a symbol of a US desire to prevent, or at least contain, their rise. Chinese participants were careful not to describe the US stance as actually provocative, or to suggest that China wanted the US out of Asia. But the US was still seen as stronger than China, both in the region as well as globally, and as anxious to surround/contain China.  Any strengthening of American military presence in the region was therefore bound to be regarded in Beijing as destabilising rather than the other way round. China’s desire to have a degree of control of the waters around her was not illegitimate or unreasonable.

One paradox was that, while the US was trying hard to reassure its regional allies of its long-term commitment, not only through rebalancing to, and within, Asia on the military side, but also through other political and economic aspects of its presence, this commitment was still questioned by some, not least in Japan. Recent US defence cuts could play into this, if they were not well presented. We saw no answer to this problem, other than simply going on making clear that the US was in there for the long haul, for reasons of its own interests as well as its obligations to its allies. The US dilemma was how to reassure allies like Japan that it was behind them, without appearing to give them a blank cheque.

In any case it was clear that good US-China understanding and collaboration would be vital in managing tensions in the region and avoiding conflict. For example the US and China needed to talk about Japan, since the Chinese and Japanese could not talk to each other at high level at the moment. On the other hand no-one wanted to see a ‘G2’ develop, and it was hard to see how either the US or China could really benefit from this. The only option was therefore continued hard bilateral diplomatic grind between the two countries.

Multilateral institutions and international involvement
We spent a good deal of time discussing the extent to which regional institutions were effective. While no-one claimed that the institutional structure was actually good, there were nevertheless two distinct schools of thought. The first took the view that, despite the inadequacies of each forum taken on its own, the combination was nevertheless helpful in reducing the risks of conflict. There were plenty of opportunities to meet and talk, and for different parties to make their concerns known and to understand others better. Some of the fora now included the military. The ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) and Shangri-La dialogue were seen as becoming increasingly valuable. Moreover the days of completely formulaic and empty Asian summits, with karaoke the main highlight, were now gone. Even if agreement was not always possible, real issues were now discussed in one way and another. Of course there was a need for further improvement – the East Asian Summit was seen as having particular potential – but the existing mechanisms should not simply be written off.

The second group, perhaps less numerous but more vocal than the first, thought that the current institutions remained largely empty and ineffective, particularly from a security point of view, and the site for “diplomatic formation dancing” of a particularly meaningless kind. The danger was that if and when a new conflict arose, there would be no places or institutions where useful discussion could take place, and no obvious sources of rapid and knowledgeable mediation.

One question we grappled with throughout the conference was how much Asia could learn from the European experience during the Cold War, or alternatively from the US/Soviet experience. While comparisons were bound to be inexact, the CSCE/OSCE models from Europe surely had something useful in them which Asia could adopt? Likewise, surely the US/Soviet panoply of bilateral agreements to prevent accidents at sea or elsewhere getting out of hand, as well as devices such as hotlines, had a lot to offer? Some participants thought so. Certainly Asia desperately needed to find some practical confidence-building measures to help build trust and entrench habits of working together, for example in less sensitive areas such as the environment, energy or natural disasters.

Others pointed out that, while China was not the Soviet Union, and did not want to be regarded as in any way similar, at the same time the Chinese were acutely conscious that the CSCE process had played a part in the downfall of the Soviet Union, and had no intention of going the same way. There was therefore a high wall in front of any effort to import European cold war examples into Asia. Overall we saw little chance in present circumstances of overtly promoting the European model in Asia – which was not to say that individual bits of the European experience, suitably renamed and repackaged, could not be proposed by individual Asian countries. One key point was to make sure that the US and China were both involved in as many fora as possible.

We also discussed the extent to which those outside the region could play a role in preventing conflict. There was a large measure of agreement that the potential importance of wider international influence should not be under-estimated. While powers other than the US would neither want nor be able to deploy significant military forces in the region, most would certainly be badly affected by the fall-out of any serious conflict in Asia, and should not simply look at Asia through an economic and commercial prism. They should make clear and explicit their interest in continuing stability, their willingness to contribute to this if necessary, their support for the rule of law in this region, as in others, and their expectations of the major players, in strategic terms. Europe and European countries in particular should start to take this more strategic approach – they had a huge amount at stake if things went wrong.

One important wild card we were aware of but did not discuss extensively was the role of Russia in the region. Russia-China relations seemed a little hollow despite claims of a strategic partnership. The recent improvement in Russia/Japan relations was interesting and possibly of strategic significance. Russia’s regional engagement for the moment looked to most outsiders rather sporadic and patchy, but this could change.

While in some ways those in the region seemed to have more respect for international than regional institutions, in practice we saw little scope at present for the UN Security Council to be allowed to play any kind of role. This was a pity, and the possibility of it changing should not be ignored. There might come a time when UN good offices and even peacekeepers might be needed. Meanwhile the ICJ was always available if the parties to any particular dispute, territorial or otherwise, wanted to use it.

One of the problems in this context was that the vast majority of the territorial disputes did not look remotely soluble for the moment, given prevailing attitudes, even though they were often about uninhabited islands. The best that could be hoped for was to manage such disputes, for example setting the sovereignty issues on one side, and talking about joint exploration of natural resources. Sadly, most of them did not look easily manageable either, and might grow more unmanageable over time – hence the real dangers of conflict.

As well as discussing these broad issues on a continental level, we took a closer look at the sub-regions.

North-East Asia
This was currently the area where the risks looked greatest, with the Korean peninsula the likeliest place for serious conflict to start. Kim Jong-eun was still an unknown quantity, but what we did know was not reassuring. There was nothing to suggest he was a reformer of the kind so badly needed. His personal nature appeared to be harsh and brutal, by all accounts, and the killing of his uncle had seemed to bear this out. While the immediate situation with her neighbours seemed calmer than a few months ago, the likelihood of fresh provocations at some stage was high. It was unlikely that the ROK reaction would be as relatively low-key and emollient as in the past. Not only was the ROK President tougher in her approach, public opinion in South Korea had also changed in favour of harsh responses to unacceptable North Korean acts.

But the South Korean public were not the only ones losing patience. The international community as a whole had been played along by the North Koreans too many times, and had also had enough. Even the Chinese had recognised that their previous policies had not worked as they had hoped, and accepted the need for a new tactical approach. More pressure of all kinds on North Korea was needed, to help prevent an eventual explosion.

Did this mean that the chances of a major conflict had increased – even that the idea of forced reunification was now on the table? Was North Korea in fact a paper tiger, which could be brushed aside by ROK forces relatively easily if it came to it, albeit at a price? Some thought so. Others hesitated to go so far. China might be impatient and keen on reform in North Korea, but she was not ready to contemplate regime collapse, with all that would entail. Others continued to argue that we still had to try to understand the North Korean leadership, and see the world through their eyes. But they were a small minority. Most for example thought that the six-party talks had had their day and could/should not be resumed. US-North Korea bilateral talks also looked out of the question. Five-party talks, without North Korea, might be more useful, despite the risk of increasing North Korea’s sense of isolation. All this was made more urgent by the desirability of preventing North Korea developing serious delivery methods for their crude nuclear weapons. If they did so, not only the ROK and Japan, but even China, would be threatened, and the threats of escalation/proliferation would rise exponentially.

The other worrying regional issue was Japan/China relations, particularly the simmering dispute over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands. The absence of bilateral dialogue, the level of mutual recriminations, the stoking of nationalist fervour on both sides, and the increased manoeuvring around the islands by warships and planes meant that the risks were particularly high. Again there were few bilateral or other control mechanisms in place. Japanese attempts to establish military hotlines had been consistently rebutted. The danger of miscalculation was obvious.

History also played a significant role in this. Japan certainly needed to do more to establish its sincerity about past apologies for its behaviour, with China as with Korea. Japanese messaging in this area was sadly deficient. However Chinese assertions that Japan was reverting to 1930s militarism were very wide of the mark – a 1% increase in military spending by military forces still severely constrained by the post-war constitution hardly justified such wild accusations. In practice, if the toxic legacy of history was to be reduced, all sides would have to play their part. Attempts to promote more balanced national narratives of the history should be restarted or reinforced, even if joint textbooks looked a hopeless dream for now.

Did the high level of economic interdependence mean that serious conflict was inconceivable? Neither side could possibly welcome such a conflict. Sadly, historical experience suggested that, in the event of an incident, rational calculation of economic interest would quickly go out of the window, and the populist nationalism both sides had been playing with could take over and drive governments in alarming directions.

South-East Asia
ASEAN had made a huge contribution to the security of the region over the last few decades. While there were still some disputes between members, these looked manageable. Internal instability in one or two countries, most obviously Thailand, remained a concern, but the main threats came from outside. China’s rise had caused concern here too, although most countries said little about this publicly. While China had long seemed to support ASEAN unity, the splits at the 2012 ASEAN foreign ministers’ meeting had put a different complexion on matters. There was real concern in some ASEAN countries about what was seen as greater Chinese assertiveness in recent years, particularly about their territorial claims. The infamous  “Nine-dash line” might date from before the revolution, but present-day China had never sought to distance itself from it, and seemed to be asserting its claims over various islands more aggressively, particularly vis-à-vis the Philippines. The Philippine proposal for a new Code of Conduct over such clashes could offer a way forward, but China’s response had hitherto been that the time was not right for such an initiative, without further explanation. ASEAN arguments were that adherence to international norms and international law should be explicitly favoured over any use of force.

It was suggested during the conference that the perception of Chinese assertiveness was out of date and that the last few months had seen a change of tack, perhaps reflecting lessons learnt from the previous phase, and a wish to avoid an arms race with all its neighbours. Many round the table remained to be convinced that this was real, but any such move would certainly be warmly welcomed.

South Asia
Tensions in the region seemed a little lower at present than at times in the past, but the risks of conflict remained high: the Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan was unresolved, and India-Pakistan relations still seemed fragile, at best. Pakistan’s own internal situation might have improved a little, with successful elections and the take-over by a new civilian government, but the concerns about its vulnerability to internal jihadism and the risks to its nuclear weapon security had certainly not gone away. Many Pakistani jihadists were now fighting in Syria, and could be further radicalised by the experience.

One potential spark for conflict would be another major terrorist attack in India. The relative restraint shown by India after the Mumbai attack was most unlikely to be repeated, given tougher political and public attitudes now. If a BJP-backed candidate became Prime Minister after the elections later this year, Indian patience might be in even shorter supply.

Another wild card in the region was what could happen in Afghanistan after the NATO withdrawal in 2014. The likelihood of renewed India-Pakistan rivalry for influence in Kabul was very high, which could increase tensions further. Western interest in Afghanistan could decline sharply, and the neighbours could be left to battle it out themselves. That was hardly a reassuring prospect.

Meanwhile the relationships of some major outside powers in the region were bound to be significant, and were shifting. Japan’s relationship with India was improving dramatically, including on the military front. While strong and still growing economic links were no doubt part of the reason for this, it was hard to believe that Japan’s desire for friends in the context of its rivalry with China did not play a role too. The US relationship with India might also be pursued harder, even if that were at the expense of US-Pakistan relations. The Chinese angle would not be absent from this either, even if India would never allow itself to be used by the US. Meanwhile China’s relationship with Pakistan seemed to remain strong, with the port of Gwadar an important part of this, and no sign of any Chinese wish to influence Pakistan in a different, more constructive direction.

As already suggested, we struggled to identify neat ways forward, despite the risks, but the following ideas/directions seemed to command a good deal of support, though not always unanimity, in no particular order:-

  • strengthen further the regional institutional architecture, ensuring in particular that there are plenty of fora which include both China and the US;
  • identify and agree on one forum where the most sensitive issues can be discussed, for example the East Asia Summit;
  • intensify efforts to identify and implement confidence-building measures, even if these are in areas not directly related to security concerns;
  • look for elements from the European experience which might be helpful, but avoid any European labelling or outside promotion;
  • Europeans and other outside powers to take a much closer interest in the security situation and make their voice heard in favour of peaceful, rules-based approaches;
  • Intensify the efforts to strengthen the network of free trade agreements, including multilateral agreements, ensuring that the latter are genuinely open to all, including China;
  • Renew efforts to lessen tensions over history in north-east Asia;
  • Start five-party talks on the Korean peninsula, and potentially other areas;
  • Intensify pressure of all kinds on North Korea to stop threatening its neighbours and start a process of genuine internal reform;
  • Redouble bilateral diplomatic efforts between major players to reduce tensions and increase understanding, including between the US and China, China and Japan, and India and China;
  • Redouble dialogue at every level about ways to ensure that NATO’s withdrawal for Afghanistan does not lead to internal instability in Afghanistan or international rivalry for influence there;
  • Agree a new code of conduct about how to deal with intractable territorial disputes, starting with those in south-east Asia;
  • Propose and agree new regional standards of transparency about military spending and capacity;
  • Agree bilateral mechanisms to reduce the risks of accidental conflict escalation, including military hotlines;
  • Build in much more track 2 diplomacy between the various countries, to create relationships and understanding which often seemed sadly lacking;
  • Encourage Asia’s vibrant civil society to play a more active and constructive role in the security arena.

We were left hoping that the good sense of leaders in Asia, and the logic of economic interdependence, would continue to prevail, but worrying that we were relying on a (non) system based largely on self-restraint, in an area increasingly characterised by nationalism, old-fashioned views of sovereignty, a toxic historical legacy, and unresolved territorial disputes. This did not look like a recipe for long-term stability, particularly if the recent cycle of economic success in most countries was at some point broken.  Was muddling through likely to be good enough, given the risks of misunderstandings and misperceptions? We did not really think so.

This Note reflects the Director’s personal impressions of the conference.  No participant is in any way committed to its content or expression.


CHAIR: Ambassador Iftekhar Chowdhury PhD
Principal Research Fellow, Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore (2009-). Formerly: Foreign Minister of Bangladesh (2007-09); Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations (UN), New York (2001-07); Facilitator, UN Reforms (2005); Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the UN, Geneva (1996-2001); Ambassador to Qatar (1994-96); Special Advisor to Secretary General, UN Conference on Trade and Development (2000); Chairman, UN Information Committee; Chairman, World Trade Organization (WTO) Trade Policy Review Body; Chairman, WTO Committee on Trade and Development; President, Conference on Disarmament.

Dr Malcolm Cook
Senior Fellow, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore (2013-). Formerly: Dean, School of International Studies, Flinders University (2011-13); Program Director, East Asia, Lowy Institute for International Policy.
Dr Rod Lyon
Fellow - International Strategy, formerly Senior Analyst, Australian Strategic Policy Institute. Formerly: member, National Consultative Committee on International Security Issues (2005-07); Lecturer in International Relations, University of Queensland; Visiting Research Fellow, Georgetown University, Washington DC (2004); Strategic Analysis Branch, Office of National Assessments (1985-96).
Mr John Quinn
Assistant Secretary, International Security Division, Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) (2008-11, 2012-); Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet's Task Force on 'Australia in the Asian Century' White Paper (2011-12); Consul-General, Honolulu (2004-07); Head, Iraq Task Force, Canberra (2003-04).

Dr James Boutilier
Special Advisor on International Engagement, Maritime Forces Pacific HQ, British Columbia; Lecturer: NATO Defense College, Canadian Forces College, Australian Defence College, National Defense University of the Philippines, member: Canadian Consortium on Asia-Pacific Security, Council on Security Cooperation in Asia-Pacific, Pacific People's Partnership. Formerly: Dean of Arts and Head of History Department, Royal Roads Military College, Victoria.
Dr Eva Busza
Vice President, Knowledge and Research, Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada. Formerly: Director of Policy and Strategic Planning for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon; Asia-Pacific Team Leader, Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery, UNDP; Senior Advisor, Security Sector Reform Programs, National Democratic Institute for International Affairs; Assistant Professor, Department of Government, College of William and Mary; Research Fellow: Columbia University, George Washington University, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Brookings Institution, Center for International Security and Arms Control at Stanford University.
Ms Jill Sinclair
Department of National Defence (2008-): Assistant Deputy Minister (Policy). Formerly: Department of External Affairs (1981-2008): Assistant Secretary to the Cabinet, Foreign and Defence Policy, Privy Council Office (2006-08); diplomatic posts in Prague, Havana, the Middle East; Canada's Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process (2003-06); Director General, International Security Bureau, Department of Foreign Affairs (2001-03); Executive Director, International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (2000-01); Director General, Global Issues; Canada's first Ambassador for Mine Action; Director, Non-Proliferation, Arms Control and Disarmament Division (1996-98).

Ambassador Hans-Joachim Daerr Retd
Formerly: German Diplomatic Service: Commissioner of the German Federal Government for Arms Control and Disarmament; Director General, UN and Global Affairs; Special Envoy for Afghanistan; Ambassador to Tokyo (2006-09); to Pakistan (1998-2001); Deputy Political Director, German Federal Foreign Office.
Dr Maya Tudor
University Lecturer in Government and Public Policy, Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford. Formerly, Research Fellow, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University; Special Assistant to Chief Economist Joseph Stiglitz, The World Bank.

Mr Dhruva Jaishankar 
Transatlantic Fellow, Asia Program, German Marshall Fund (GMF).
Mr Rahul Nayar
Master of Public Policy Candidate, Blavatnik School of Government, Oxford (2013-); Chevening-Weidenfeld Scholar (2013-).
Mr Jayadeva Ranade
President, Centre for China Analysis and Strategy, New Delhi; member, National Security Advisory Board to the Prime Minister; Distinguished Fellow, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies and Gateway House - Indian Council on Global Relations; member, Core Group on China, Indian Council of World Affairs. Formerly: Additional Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, Government of India; Minister, Embassy of India, Washington DC.

Ms Mitsuko Hayashi
Ministry of Defence of Japan (1993-): Defence Counsellor, Embassy of Japan, London (2011-). Formerly: Head, International Security Policy Section, International Policy Planning Division, Bureau of Defense Policy; Head, US-Japan Defence Policy Section, Defense Policy Division, Bureau of Defense Policy; Special Adviser to Defence Minister on Japan-US Cooperation; Principal Deputy Director, International Policy Division, Bureau of Defense Policy.
Minister Akio Miyajima
Minister Plenipotentiary and Deputy Head of Mission, Embassy of Japan to the United Kingdom (2013-). Formerly: Deputy Director General, Foreign Policy Bureau, and Ambassador in charge of UN affairs (2011-13); Minister, Permanent Mission of Japan to the United Nations in New York (2007-11); Minister, Embassy of Japan to Korea; Director, First North American Division, North American Affairs Bureau; Deputy Director, First Southeast Asia Division, Asian Affairs Bureau.
Mr Masanori Nishi
Japanese Ministry of Defence: Administrative Vice-Minister (2013-). Formerly: Director General, Bureau of Defense Policy (2011-13); Director General, Bureau of Finance and Equipment (2009-11); Assistant Vice-Minister, Cabinet Office (2007-09); Assistant Vice-Minister, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2006-07); Japan Defence Agency (1978-2006): Deputy Director General (2006).
Mr Bonji Ohara
Research Fellow, Tokyo Foundation (2013-). Formerly: Analyst, Jane's (2011-13); Research Fellow, National Institute for Defense Studies (2010); Maritime Self-Defence Force (1985-2010): Chief, Intelligence Section, Maritime Staff Office, MoD (2006-08); Naval Attaché, Beijing (2003-06); Executive Officer then Commanding Officer, 21st Flight Squadron(2008-10).
Ambassador Takio Yamada
Japanese Diplomatic Service: Ambassador for Policy Planning and International Security Policy (2014-). Formerly: Deputy Director General, Intelligence and Analysis Service; Ambassador of Japan to ASEAN; Director, Regional Policy Division; Deputy Director, Japan-US Security Treaty Division; Assistant Director, Northeast Asia Division; Political Minister, Embassy of Japan, New Delhi; Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of Japan, Jakarta.

Dr Zafar Jaspal
Director, Associate Professor and Lead Researcher/Convener of Program in Domestic and International Security Communication, School of Politics and International Relations, Quaid-I-Azam University, Islamabad; Advisor on Non-Proliferation, South Asian Strategic Stability Institute, Islamabad/London (2007-); Course Coordinator, Foreign Services Academy, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Islamabad; Guest Speaker/Visiting Lecturer: NATO School, Oberammergau, Germany; Center of Excellence: Defence against Terrorism, Ankara, Turkey.

Mr Huaiyuan Chen
Research Associate, Centre on Asia and Globalisation, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore.
Ms Yu Cheng
Master of Public Policy Candidate, Blavatnik School of Government, Oxford (2013-).
Dr Zhang Zhexin
Research Fellow, Center for Asia-Pacific Studies (2008-), and Assistant Director, Institute of Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau Studies, Shanghai Institutes for International Studies; Editing Board member, Journal of Political Marketing.
Professor Hua Han
Director, Centre for Arms Control and Disarmament and Associate Professor, School of International Studies, Beijing.  Formerly: Visiting Researcher: School of International Affairs, Georgia Institute of Technology, USA; Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Sweden; Stimson Center; Monterey Center for Nonproliferation, Washington DC and Victoria University, Canada.

His Excellency Mr Enrique Manalo
Ambassador of the Philippines to the United Kingdom and Ireland. Formerly: Ambassador to Belgium and Luxembourg, and Head of the Philippine Mission to the European Union (2010-11); Under-Secretary (Deputy Minister) of Foreign Affairs for Policy (2007-10); Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva (2003-07); Chairman, General Assembly, World Intellectual Property Organization (2005-07).

His Excellency Mr Lim Sungnam KCVO
Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to the United Kingdom (2013-). Formerly: Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Peace and Security Affairs; Deputy Chief of Mission and Political Minister, Embassy of Korea, Beijing; postings to: Taipei, Washington DC, Korean Mission to the United Nations.

Professor Alexander Fedorovskiy 
Head, Pacific Studies Section, Institute of World Economic and International Relations, Moscow (1996-). Formerly: Executive Secretary, Center for Contemporary Korean Studies (2003-07); Professor, Moscow State Institute of International Relations (2002-04).
Dr Tan See Seng
Deputy Director, Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies, Head of the Centre for Multilateralism Studies and Associate Professor, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

Dr Tan See Seng
Deputy Director, Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies, Head of the Centre for Multilateralism Studies and Associate Professor, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

Mr Richard Hilder
Ministry of Defence of Japan (1993-): Defence Counsellor, Embassy of Japan, London (2011-). Formerly: Head, International Security Policy Section, International Policy Planning Division, Bureau of Defense Policy; Head, US-Japan Defence Policy Section, Defense Policy Division, Bureau of Defense Policy; Special Adviser to Defence Minister on Japan-US Cooperation; Principal Deputy Director, International Policy Division, Bureau of Defense Policy.
Dr Nicola Horsburgh
British Academy Post-Doctoral Research Fellow, Oxford Institute for Ethics, Law and Armed Conflict, Asian Studies Centre, St Antony's College, University of Oxford. Formerly: Junior Research Fellow (21st Century Concerts of Power Project), Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Oxford; pre-doctoral Fellow, James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, Monterey; Senior Visiting Scholar, Arms Control Program, Tsinghua University, Beijing (2010-11); Research Fellow on nuclear proliferation in Northeast Asia, King's College London (2003-06).
Mr James Kynge
Financial Times: Associate Editor and Emerging Markets Editor. Formerly: Editor, China Research; Chief Representative, China, Pearson plc; China Bureau Chief, Financial Times (1998-2005).
Mr Christian Le Mière
Senior Research Fellow, Naval Forces and Maritime Security, International Institute for Strategic Studies. Formerly: Editor, Jane's Intelligence Review and Jane's Intelligence Weekly; Asia Analyst, Jane's (2004-06); Managing Editor, Business Monitor International; Southeast Asia Editor, Europa Publications.
Dr Rex Li PhD
Reader in International Relations and Director of East Asian Security and Peace Project, Liverpool John Moores University; Research Associate, Department of Peace and Conflict Research, Uppsala University, Sweden. Formerly: Visiting Lecturer, UK Defence Academy; Advisor, Searching for Peace Programme, European Centre for Conflict Prevention, The Hague; Associate Editor, Security Dialogue, International Peace Research Institute, Oslo; news commentator on security affairs, BBC World Service.
Mr Julian Miller CB
Deputy National Security Advisor, Defence and Nuclear, Cabinet Office. Formerly: Director, Strategy and Resources, Ministry of Defence; Chief of Assessments Staff, Cabinet Office.
Dr Robin Niblett
Director, Chatham House, London (2007-); Non-Executive Director, Fidelity European Values Investment Trust. Formerly: Executive Vice President (2001-06), Director, Europe Program and Initiative for a Renewed Transatlantic Partnership (2004-06), Director, then Senior Vice President, Strategic Planning (1997-2001), Center for Strategic and International Studies, Washington DC.
Mr Philip Stephens
Associate Editor and Chief Political Commentator, Financial Times. Formerly: Financial Times: Economics Editor, Political Editor and Editor, UK Edition; Correspondent, Reuters, London and Brussels; Author. A Governor and Vice-Chair of the Council of Management, The Ditchley Foundation.
Dr Steven Tsang D.Phil. (Oxon)
Professor of Contemporary Chinese Studies and Director, China Policy Institute, School of Contemporary Chinese Studies, University of Nottingham (2011-). Formerly: St Antony's College, University of Oxford: Professorial Fellow; Dean; Director, Asian Studies Centre; Director, Taiwan Studies Programme; Director, Pluscarden Programme for the Study of Intelligence and Global Terrorism.
The Lord Williams of Baglan Ph.D, M.Sc (Econ)
Distinguished Visiting Fellow and Acting Head, Asia Programme, Chatham House; International Trustee, BBC. Formerly: United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Special Coordinator for Lebanon (2008-11); UK Special Representative on the Middle East and Special Projects (2007-08); UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East (2006-07); Director, Middle East and Asia, Department of Political Affairs, United Nations, New York (2005-06); Special Adviser to the UK Foreign Secretary (2000-05); Director, Office for Children and Armed Conflict, UN (1999-2000); Senior Fellow, International Institute of Strategic Studies (1995-98); Director of Information, UN Protection Force (UNPROFOR), Zagreb (1994-95); Director, Human Rights, United Nations, Cambodia (1992-93).

Ambassador Jeffrey Bader
John C. Whitehead Senior Fellow in International Diplomacy, Brookings Institution. Formerly: Senior Director for East Asian affairs, National Security Council (2009-11); Director, John L. Thornton China Center and Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy program, Brookings Institution; Senior Vice President, Stonebridge International, LLC (2002-05); US Diplomatic Service (1975-2002): Assistant United States Trade Representative for People's Republic of China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Mongolia (2001-02); Ambassador to Namibia (1999-2001); Director for Asian Affairs, National Security Council (1997-99); Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs (1996-97).
Ambassador Robert Blackwill
Henry A. Kissinger Senior Fellow for US Foreign Policy, Council on Foreign Relations. Formerly: Senior Fellow and Special Assistant to the President, RAND Corporation (2008-10); President, Barbour Griffith and Rogers International (2004-08); Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Planning (2003-04) under President George W. Bush; Presidential Envoy to Iraq (2003-04); US Ambassador to India (2001-03); Faculty Member, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University (13 years).
Dr Kurt Campbell AO
Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and Founding Partner, The Asia Group LLC, Washington DC; Co-Chairman, Center for a New American Security; Board of Directors, Standard Chartered plc, London, and MetLife Inc., New York. Formerly: Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, US Department of State (2009-13); Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder, Center for a New American Security; Director, Aspen Strategy Group; Chairman, Editorial Board, Washington Quarterly; Founder and Chairman, StratAsia; Senior Vice President, Director of the International Security Program, and Henry A. Kissinger Chair, Center for Strategic and International Studies; Associate Professor of Public Policy and International Relations, John F. Kennedy School of Government; Assistant Director, Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University; Vice Chairman, Pentagon Memorial Fund; Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asia and the Pacific, The Pentagon; Director, National Security Council staff.
Professor Balbina Hwang
Visiting Professor, American University; committee member, National Committee on North Korea; board member, Council for Security and Cooperation in the Asia Pacific. Formerly: Visiting Professor, Georgetown University; Lecturer on Northeast Asian Security, National Defense University, Washington DC (2009-10); Senior Special Advisor to Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, US Department of State (2007-09); Senior Policy Analyst for Northeast Asia, Asian Studies Center, The Heritage Foundation.
Ms Jami Miscik
President and Vice-Chairman, Kissinger Associates (2009-); member, President's Intelligence Board (2009-); Board of Directors: EMC Corporation, In-Q-Tel, Council on Foreign Relations. Formerly: Global Head of Sovereign Risk, Lehman Brothers (2005-08); Deputy Director for Intelligence, CIA (2002-05); Director, Intelligence Programs, National Security Council (1995-96). A Director of The American Ditchley Foundation.
Mr Douglas Paal
Vice President for Studies, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington DC. Formerly: Vice Chairman, JPMorgan Chase International (2006-08); Director, American Institute, Taiwan (2002-06); Director of Asian Affairs then Senior Director and Special Assistant to the President, National Security Council (1986-1993); policy planning staff, US Department of State; Senior Analyst, CIA; postings to Singapore and Beijing.

Foreign Editor, Hindustan Times, New Delhi; member, National Security Advisory Board to India's Prime Minister (2011-); Associate Fellow, The Asia Society, New York; Senior Associate, Rhodium Group, New York; member, Council of Emerging Markets; member: Aspen Institute Italia, Asia Society Global Council, Institute for International and Strategic Studies; delegate for Aspen India strategic dialogues with the United States, China, Turkey and the US-India-Japan. Formerly: Editorial Writer: The Telegraph, The Statesman; Media Fellow, Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy; Fellow, Henry Stimson Centre, Washington DC; Hubert Humphrey Fellow, University of Maryland-College Park; South Asian Fellow, Cornell University; Bernard Schwartz Fellow, Asia Society.

Mr Adam Ward
Director of Studies, International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS). Formerly: Executive Director, IISS-US office, Washington DC.