Issues & Insights Vol. 22, SR2 – US-China Mutual Vulnerability: Perspectives on the Debate


The study US-China Mutual Vulnerability: Perspectives on the Debate analyzes the mutual vulnerability question in US-China strategic nuclear relations. It asks whether the United States should acknowledge mutual vulnerability with China and, if so, how and under what conditions it should do so. The goal is not to give a yes-or-no answer but to provide a comprehensive examination of the issue to better understand the benefits, costs, and risks associated with various options. The study includes chapters by US, Japanese, South Korean, Australian, and Chinese scholars.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: The Mutual Vulnerability Question in US-China Strategic Nuclear Relations
David Santoro

Chapter 1 | Ambiguous Acknowledgement: Mutual Vulnerability during the Cold War and Options for US-China Relations
Heather Williams

Chapter 2 | Rethinking Mutual Vulnerability in an Era of US-China Strategic Competition
Brad Roberts

Chapter 3 | Questioning the Assumptions of Declaring Mutual Vulnerability with China
Matthew R. Costlow

Chapter 4 | If the United States Acknowledges Mutual Vulnerability with China, How Does it Do It–and Get Something?
Lewis A. Dunn

Chapter 5: US-China Mutual Vulnerability: A Japanese Perspective
Masashi Murano

Chapter 6: US-China Mutual Vulnerability: A South Korean Perspective
Seong-ho Sheen

Chapter 7: Actors, Orders, and Outcomes: Distilling an Australian Perspective on a US-China Acknowledgement of Mutual Vulnerability
Rod Lyon

Chapter 8: Why the United States Should Discuss Mutual Nuclear Vulnerability with China
Tong Zhao

Conclusions: The Future of Mutual Vulnerability in US-China Strategic Nuclear Relations
David Santoro

Issues & Insights Vol. 22, SR1 – Resilient Alliance: Moving the U.S.-Philippines Security Relations Forward

About this Volume

Authors of this volume participated in the inaugural U.S.- Philippines Next-Generation Leaders Initiative, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, through the U.S. Embassy in the Philippines. With backgrounds from academia, public policy, civil society and industry, the cohort brings rich insights on the past, present, and future of the U.S.-Philippines bilateral security relations.

The statements made and views expressed are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of their respective organizations and affiliations. Pacific Forum’s publications do not necessarily reflect the positions of its staff, donors and sponsors.

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Table of Contents

1. Buffering: Cybersecurity in the U.S.-Philippine Alliance | Gregory Winger
2. Explaining the Divide: Legislative Positions on the U.S.- Philippine Alliance | Angelica Mangahas
3. Friendship from a Distance: The U.S.-Philippine Alliance and Allied Access in WartimeGraham Jenkins
4. Coast Guard Engagement as an Interim Alternative to Bilateral Maritime Cooperation | Jay Tristan Tarriela
5. Understanding the Role of the United States in the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM) System | Rachelle Anne Miranda
6. Advancing the Philippines-U.S. Alliance for Conflict Resolution in the South China Sea: Policy Options From an Issues Approach | Edcel John Ibarra
7. Onward and Upward: The Philippines-U.S. Security Alliance | Deryk Matthew Baladjay & Florence Principe Gamboa
8. The EDCA and the Philippines’ External Defense Capability Development | Santiago Castillo

Editor’s Note

Balikatan, or shoulder-to-shoulder, the name for the annual U.S.-Philippines military exercises, describes the enduring bond of Filipinos and Americans committed to the ideals of democracy and freedom. This bond has been over a century in the making. Since the United States first occupied the Philippines in 1898, hundreds of thousands of Filipinos have fought and died alongside the U.S. armed forces and helped defeat threats—from Imperial Japan and the Cold War to terrorist movements and violent extremism.

In 1951, then-U.S. President Harry S. Truman described the U.S.-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty as a “strong step toward security and peace in the Pacific… and a formal expression of something that already exists — the firm relationship of brotherhood that binds our countries together.” Then-Philippine President Elpidio Quirino, in response, described the security pact as “a formal undertaking to assist each other and to stand together in the face of aggression, in the hope that hereafter we may be able to follow undistracted the fruitful pursuits of peace.”

Seven decades since, the bilateral security relationship has evolved considerably. It has faced a number of political changes spanning 12 Philippine presidents and 14 U.S. presidents and has withstood the test of time. Today, the alliance remains indispensable, not just for the peoples of both countries, but also for the broader Indo-Pacific in addressing emerging threats and regional challenges – from irredentist claims and blatant sidestepping of the rule of law in many of the region’s maritime spaces to natural disasters, cyber insecurity, climate change and the lingering threat of pandemics. The alliance has been consequential and will continue to survive and can help address these challenges. But it cannot be taken for granted.

While many American strategic thinkers and policy communities remain largely positive about security engagements with the Philippines, the Filipino public remains mostly ‘detached’ from their country’s foreign affairs. For instance, in Philippine elections, foreign policy and relations with major powers have never figured prominently. This is despite the importance of issues like the South China Sea to the country’s economic well-being. Moreover, there is a need to foster next-generation expertise on the Philippines in the United States. As more next-generation Filipinos and Americans assume positions of leadership in governments, public institutions, civil society organizations, academia, and the private sector, their priorities will begin to dominate discourses on the alliance. It is vital that the next generation is involved in contemporary strategic discourses relevant to U.S.-Philippine security relations and is mutually invested in the growth of their countries’ partnership.

This edited volume is an effort to provide exchange opportunities and a platform for next-generation U.S. and Philippine leaders and experts, so their voices can be heard, and creative thinking is encouraged about this vital alliance.

Gregory Winger premises his chapter with an assertion that, while the applicability of the U.S.-Philippine alliance to an armed attack has been discussed for decades, how the alliance addresses new forms of “aggression like cyberattacks remains undefined.” To fill the gap, Winger’s paper critically examines the place of cybersecurity in the alliance and traces the history of bilateral cybersecurity cooperation from the 1990s. He finds that integration of cybersecurity into alliance cooperation has lagged since 2016 and explains that elite-political discord and strategic divergence in how both governments perceive threats within the digital domain are to blame. Winger argues the different institutional preferences at the national level (i.e., U.S. prioritization of geostrategic competition pursued through military-cyber means versus the Philippines’ preoccupation with cybercrime and securing its cyberinfrastructure) limited the alliance’s role in addressing cybersecurity.

Angelica Mangahas’ chapter discusses the historically divergent attitudes on alliance issues between Malacañang Palace, where U.S. preferences are often embraced, and the Philippine Senate, where security cooperation with Washington is often re-dissected, and how President Rodrigo Duterte overturned this 65-year dynamic. On the former, Mangahas revisited the three common arguments used to explain the divergent attitudes: 1) Philippine senators’ views as a reflection of the national threat perceptions of the period that may not mirror U.S. priorities adopted by the sitting president; 2) the demand for the Philippine president to be pragmatic about security issues and the senators’ tendency to push for idealistic positions on independence; and 3) the impact of U.S. assistance flowing directly to the executive branch of government to the detriment of Congress, which otherwise holds the power the purse. On the latter, Mangahas offers a fourth explanation: electioneering. She argues that senators keen to pursue higher office often “adopt ‘maverick’-type personas on hot-button issues that galvanize public attention.” Hence, these senators tend to adopt positions that are seen as opposing the Palace.

Graham Jenkins’ chapter takes a closer look at the posture of U.S. forces in the Philippines under the existing Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) and Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and argues that any direct assistance from U.S. military “with sufficient combat power in a short enough timeframe” in the event of a contingency in the South China Sea will be a challenge. Jenkins analyzes three different access regimes (low/medium/high, in terms of relative permissiveness) to determine their operational feasibility and effectiveness should there be a need for U.S. military action to defend the Philippines in the South China Sea. The paper offers insights into “the ideal U.S. force posture that effectively defends the Philippines” against a maritime invasion and “the investments that Manila should prioritize to better defend itself.”

Jay Tristan Tarriela’s chapter argues that coast guard cooperation between the Philippines and the United States can serve as an interim approach to sustain bilateral maritime security cooperation in times when domestic political attitudes are not favorable to close alliance engagements. Tarriela’s arguments stem from his analysis of coast guard functions and how the Philippines and other regional states regard white hulls vis-à-vis their national security priorities. The chapter also posits that if domestic political conditions become favorable again to military-to-military engagement, coast guard engagement can complement and amplify naval initiatives. “In essence, coast guard cooperation between the Philippines and the United States can complement (vice substitute) future military engagements between the two allies.”

Rachel Anne Miranda’s chapter focuses on the significant role the U.S.-Philippine alliance has played in disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM) in the Philippines. Miranda surveys the U.S. military’s contributions to the Philippines’ acquisition of logistics capacity for both security and disaster response operations, which, in turn, addresses the challenges posed by the intense impacts of disasters on vulnerable communities. Miranda underscores that U.S. assistance encompasses DRRM beyond mere disaster response operations, providing important insights into the disaster, human security, and conflict nexus.

Edcel John Ibarra’s chapter challenges the notion that the Philippines-U.S. alliance is detrimental to resolving the South China Sea disputes because the United States is external to the conflict. Using the ‘issues approach to international relations, ’ Ibarra examines the specific component issues of the South China Sea disputes and identifies the direct parties involved and types of conflict resolution implied in each issue. He argues that the United States is a “direct party on the issues of settling the extent to which coastal states may regulate the activities of user states and managing the risk of miscalculation associated with military operations in the South China Sea.” For Ibarra, this opens opportunities for cooperation between Manila and Washington on actual conflict resolution, conflict prevention, and conflict management.

The chapter co-authored by Deryk Matthew Baladjay and Florence Principe Gamboa explores the U.S.- Philippines alliance in three critical respects. First, it explains why the alliance is important and why it will continue to benefit the two countries. Second, it presents an analytical framework originally conceptualized by Victor Cha to show the Philippines’ disposition toward its alliance with Washington, which explains why countries like the Philippines link and delink or hedge against major powers. Finally, it explores what the Philippines and the U.S. can do moving forward. Baladjay and Gamboa argue that, while hedging has been beneficial for the Philippines in dealing with geopolitical uncertainties, the time has come for Manila to decide “whether or not it wants to be a shaper in international relations.”

The final chapter by Santiago Castillo examines how the EDCA can further improve the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) external defense capabilities and improve the defense ties of the two allies. Santiago argues that a particular area where the EDCA can advance U.S.-Philippine military partnership is improving the AFP’s ability to protect the country from external military threats and adapt or effectively respond to a dynamic geopolitical environment.

Authors of this volume participated in the inaugural U.S.-Philippine Alliance Next-Generation Leaders Initiative, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, through the U.S. Embassy Manila. With backgrounds from academia, public policy, civil society, and industry, the cohort brings rich insights on the past, present, and future of the U.S.-Philippines bilateral security relationship.

About the Authors

Gregory Winger is an Assistant Professor of Political Science and Fellow with the Center for Cyber Strategy and Policy at the University of Cincinnati. He is also a former Fulbright Scholar to the Philippines and Fellow with the National Asia Research Program.

Gica Mangahas is a PhD candidate at the Johns Hopkins University School for Advanced International Studies. She received her MA in Security Studies from Georgetown University. She previously worked as an analyst and researcher for the Stratbase – Albert Del Rosario Institute in Manila.

Graham W. Jenkins is a senior principal analyst with the Strategic Assessment unit in Northrop Grumman’s Aeronautics Sector. He is responsible for strategic analysis, operations research, and long-range planning affecting the development of advanced technologies and aircraft design across a wide range of scenarios and capabilities. His background lies in international security and defense, nuclear weapons, and wargaming and red-teaming. Graham previously worked as an intelligence analyst focused on East Asia and influence operations as a contractor for the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence. He has also worked as a consultant at EY, strategic analyst at the Scitor Corporation, and a research assistant at the Institute for Defense Analyses, focusing on risk management, nuclear policy, and wargame design. Graham is a Pacific Forum Young Leader and adjunct fellow with the American Security Project; he was previously an Energy Security Fellow with Securing America’s Future Energy, a Penn Kemble Fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy, and a Nuclear Scholar with the CSIS Project on Nuclear Issues. Graham holds an MSc in Theory and History of International Relations from the London School of Economics and a BA in history and international affairs from Sarah Lawrence College.

Jay Tristan Tarriela is a commissioned officer of the Philippine Coast Guard with the rank of Commander. He is the Director of PCG’s Leadership and Doctrine Development Center. He obtained his Ph.D. in Policy Analysis from the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS) in Tokyo under the GRIPS Global Governance (G-cube) Program. At GRIPS, he was a Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) ASEAN Public Policy Leadership Scholar. Previously, he was assigned at the PCG national headquarters in Manila and performed numerous functions in different capacities, including maritime security capability development and organizational restructuring reforms. He also acted as the personal adviser to the PCG Commandant on human resource management, particularly on recruitment plans, career management, and personnel specialization. He attended numerous military and coast guard training, locally and abroad. He holds a graduate degree from the Philippine Merchant Marine Academy Graduate School and a Master of Policy Studies from GRIPS and the Japan Coast Guard Academy, where he was part of the inaugural class of the Maritime Safety and Security Program launched jointly by both institutions in 2016. He is also a Young Leader with Pacific Forum, Honolulu. Further, he has written opinion-editorial articles published by The Diplomat, The National Interest, Analyzing War, and other leading publications.

Rachelle Anne Miranda is a disaster risk reduction (DRR) practitioner and has devoted her professional life as a public servant in the Office of Civil Defense. She is currently assigned as a Training Specialist- building capacities in civil defense and DRR in the Philippines, and concurrently, the Deputy Spokesperson of OCD and the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council. Rachelle holds a master’s degree in Disaster Risk and Resilience from Ateneo De Manila University and currently, a master’s candidate in Master in Public Administration Major in Health Emergency and Disaster Management at Bicol University. Her research specialization and interests are in Incident Command System, risk communication, DRR localization, disaster statistics, and international and local humanitarian work.

Edcel John A. Ibarra is Foreign Affairs Research Specialist at the Philippine Foreign Service Institute working on territorial and maritime security concerns. He is pursuing a master’s degree in international studies at the Department of Political Science, University of the Philippines Diliman. He received a bachelor’s degree in political science, magna cum laude, from the same university in 2015.

Deryk Matthew N. Baladjay is a member of the Pacific Forum’s Young Leaders Program. He is also Research Manager at Amador Research Services and an Assistant Editor at the Philippine Strategic Forum, based in Manila.

Florence Principe Gamboa is a non-resident Vasey Fellow at the Pacific Forum. She is also Senior Research Associate at Amador Research Services and Managing Editor at the Philippine Strategic Forum, based in Manila.

Santiago Juditho Emmanuel L. Castillo has an MA degree in International Studies major in Asian Studies from De La Salle University and a BA degree in Philosophy from San Beda University. The focus of his graduate studies is on Japan’s defense/security policies and strategies in light of the changing security situation in the Asia-Pacific. He is also interested in military capability developments and defense diplomacy. He currently works as a Research-Analyst and Executive Assistant for the Philippine government for the past three years. His research specialization and interests are warfare and strategic studies, traditional geopolitical security issues, military technologies, as well as foreign and defense policies of Japan and Russia.

About the Editors

Jeffrey Ordaniel is non-resident Adjunct Fellow and Director for Maritime Security at the Pacific Forum. Concurrently, he is also Associate Professor of International Security Studies at Tokyo International University (TIU) in Japan. He holds a Ph.D. in International Relations and specializes in the study of offshore territorial and maritime entitlement disputes in Asia. His teaching and research revolve around maritime security and ocean governance, ASEAN regionalism, and broadly, U.S. alliances and engagements in the Indo-Pacific. From 2016 to 2019, he was based in Honolulu and was the holder of the endowed Admiral Joe Vasey Fellowship at the Pacific Forum. Since 2019, Dr. Ordaniel has been convening the Indo-Pacific Maritime Security Expert Working Group, an informal network of select experts and scholars from Japan, Southeast Asia, Australia and North America, with the aim of generating sound, pragmatic and actionable policy prescriptions for the region. His current research on maritime security in Asia is funded by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS), 2020-2022.

Carl Baker is senior adviser at Pacific Forum in Honolulu, Hawaii. Previousy, Mr. Baker served as the Forum’s Executive Director and as coeditor of Comparative Connections. He is a member of the Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific (CSCAP) and engaged in promoting security cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region as a participant in several CSCAP Study Groups. Current focus areas include preventive diplomacy, multilateral security architecture, nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and nuclear security. Previously, he was on the faculty at the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies and an adjunct professor at Hawaii Pacific University. Publications include articles and book chapters on U.S. alliances and political developments in South Korea and the Philippines. A retired U.S. Air Force officer, he has extensive experience in Korea, having served as an international political-military affairs officer for the UN Military Armistice Commission and as a political and economic intelligence analyst for U.S. Forces Korea. He has also lived for extended periods and served in a variety of military staff assignments in Japan, the Philippines, and Guam.

Photo: A ceremony at the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial in honor of service members who perished in the line of duty, November 11, 2018. Source: U.S. Embassy Manila Facebook Page

Issues & Insights Vol. 22, WP5 — Shifting Supply Chains from China into India as an Effective Grand Strategy in the Indo-Pacific Region

Executive Summary

Between 2016 and 2020, nations of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) became patently aware of the risks posed by an authoritarian state such as China controlling much of global value chains. This realization among leaders of the Quad nations can be attributed to a general rise in populism around the globe—which ignited a debate on globalization—to the COVID-19 pandemic, China’s acts of economic coercion against Australia and aggression against India in the Galwan Valley. To prevent China from weaponizing interdependence, nations of the grouping have launched several supply chain diversification and economic security initiatives such as the Supply Chain Resilience Initiative (SCRI) and Economic Prosperity Network (EPN). While these initiatives are a step in the right direction, a larger reformatory initiative is needed to prevent diversification projects from becoming a flash in the pan. Shifting supply chains out of China and into India has the potential to be that much needed reformative initiative. This exploratory study of the challenges and opportunities associated with shifting supply chains into India tests this hypothesis by examining the domestic political economy in India and the complexities of the US-India relationship.

This study observes major impediments to a supply chain diversification project. One, trade protectionism is a common feature among Indian administrations. India’s diverse political landscape has warranted coalition governments, which has prevented administrations from taking reformative action on liberalizing the economy. Two, the US-India relationship historically had ups and downs. The two democracies even came to the brink of war in 1971, and 20 years later, the US unleashed economic sanctions on India for their nuclear tests. A concerted recalibration of the US-India relationship is required to solidify any form of economic partnership, short of an alliance.

To summarize, the Indian government should continue liberalizing its economy through the land, labor, and corporate governance reforms. The US should adopt a more conciliatory approach to India’s domestic issues to avoid fissures in the relationship. Subsequently, the US, Australia, and Japan will be able to capitalize on the opportunities the Indian economy and the Indo-Pacific economy at large present for supply chain diversification. These opportunities can be capitalized through creating a trade bloc exclusive for the Quad and establishing a wealth fund to fund investments in the wider region.

About the Author

Akhil Ramesh (IND) holds an M.S. in Global Affairs from New York University in New York, a Certificate in Business and Geopolitics from HEC Paris, France and a BBA from Amity University, India. He is currently a resident Lloyd & Lilian Vasey Fellow at the Pacific Forum.

Issues & Insights Vol. 22, WP4 — Trouble on the Rocks: US Policy in East China Sea and South China Sea Disputes

Executive Summary

The South and East China Seas are strategic not only for US security and commercial interests, but are vitally so for US treaty allies Japan and the Philippines. Both countries are involved in territorial disputes with China, a rising power and security concern for the US and its allies. Despite treaty alliances with both, the United States has consistently confirmed that the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea are covered under Article V of the US-Japan Security Treaty while stating that Philippine-claimed islands in the South China Sea are not explicitly covered in the Mutual Defense Treaty. This research project aims to understand why US policy is inconsistent in defending treaty allies’ territory. The methods used to solve this question are to look at the historical context of both disputes as well as strategic interests. UNCLOS is also analyzed to see whether international law influenced US policy. The result was that the US more consistently covered the Senkaku Islands due to the need to gain Japan’s trust as an ally in the post-war order and the US has an interest in maintaining status-quo in the region. There are three recommendations for the US in order to create a more consistent policy, which include signing UNCLOS, reengaging with regional allies such as the Philippines to establish a stronger defense commitment, and strengthening alliances with actors such as the Quad as well as the UK and France.

About the author

Ben Tracy ( received a BA in International Studies and Chinese Studies from Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee. He is currently working as an assistant language teacher with the Japan Exchange & Teaching Program. His interests are maritime security, the US-Japan Security Alliance, Chinese foreign policy as well as Chinese and Japanese domestic politics. He plans on pursuing a master’s degree in security studies.

Issues & Insights Vol. 22, WP3 — Feminist Peace and Security and The Other ASEAN Way

Executive Summary

This paper aims to critically re-examine the role of the “ASEAN Way” and regional governance more broadly in promoting feminist peace and security in Southeast Asia. Expansive definition and aspirations embodied by the ASEAN Way are typically traded for a more state-centric version. The term is commonly used as a short-hand for the failures and limitations of regional governance, and rarely for its virtues. Consequently, insufficient attention has been paid to how the ASEAN Way also relates to the agency of regional networks of civil society actors who collectively serve as the permanent background to regional governance in Southeast Asia. Bringing together disparate international relations scholarship on ASEAN regionalism and the WPS agenda, this paper makes a case for the importance of recognizing this other and less examined aspect of ASEAN Way to arrive at a fuller account of both ASEAN regionalism and the gendered root causes of insecurity in Southeast Asia. It concludes with a recommendation to rectify knowledge gaps on the various strategies regional civil society networks employ to advance human rights and wellbeing in ASEAN including those aligned with the WPS agenda, while adapting to the enormous challenge of building and caring for a regional community perpetually beset by multiple crises.

About the author

Dr Maria Tanyag ( is a Fellow / Senior Lecturer at the Department of International Relations, Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs, Australian National University. She was awarded her PhD from Monash University in 2018. Maria received first class honours for both her MA (Research) and BA Honours in Political Studies from the University of Auckland, New Zealand; and a BA in Political Science magna cum laude from the University of the Philippines-Diliman. She was selected as one of the inaugural International Studies Association (ISA) Emerging Global South Scholars in 2019, and as resident Women, Peace and Security Fellow at Pacific Forum in 2021.


Issues & Insights Vol. 22, WP2 — Compound Gender-Climate-Security Threats and Vulnerabilities within the Indo-Pacific

Executive Summary

In 2021, signs of climate change intensification were evident in unprecedented wildfires, floods, cyclones, landslides, suggesting that climate-security threats are intensifying as well. Home to several rising powers and strategic trading partners, the Indo-Pacific is a vital region for the United States, yet it is one of the most vulnerable regions in terms of climate threats. A McKinsey report states that, “Asia stands out as being more exposed to physical climate risk than other parts of the world in the absence of adaptation and mitigation.”[1] Other research has shown that Asian countries have the highest numbers of people exposed to climate hazards such as floods, droughts, and storms.[2]

Climate change is an emerging security risk, and one that deserves greater study given the significant diversity of security and climate scenarios. In particular, the role of women as sources of climate security intelligence has been understudied. This paper aims to correct that oversight and assess which countries within the Indo-Pacific have the greatest combined gender-climate-security risk factors and why. A detailed breakdown of data from several indices related to fragility, gender inequality, conflict, and climate change is summarized for all countries within the area covered by the US Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM) in Table 1. Using this data, this paper examines in greater depth Bangladesh, Fiji, Indonesia, Myanmar, Philippines, and Vietnam—due to their diversity in environmental conditions and political conditions—to determine their specific gender-climate-security challenges. This paper begins with an overview of a gender-climate-security framework, provides focus country assessments, examines US INDOPACOM’s greatest vulnerabilities, and explores ways in which women may act as bellwethers of emerging climate-related conflicts if meaningfully and consistently consulted.

[1] “Climate Risk and Response in Asia” (McKinsey Global Institute, November 24, 2020), 7,

[2] Joshua Busby et al., “In Harm’s Way: Climate Security Vulnerability in Asia,” World Development 112 (December 1, 2018): 88–118,

About the author

Maryruth Belsey Priebe ( is a non-resident Women, Peace and Security (WPS) Fellow at Pacific Forum International, a Harvard International Relations graduate student, and the author of numerous articles. Using social science, feminist foreign policy perspectives/analyses/theories, and data analysis, her research focuses on the nexus of gender, climate change, and peace and security in the Asia-Pacific. Maryruth’s circular food economy policy work has been selected for inclusion in the OpenIDEO Food Systems Game Changers Lab, and she has held several research and fellowship positions focused on women’s leadership. She is also a member of Harvard’s Climate Leaders Program and the Research Network on Women, Peace and Security, and is a volunteer for multiple gender-climate causes. Maryruth tweets @greenwriting.

Issues & Insights Vol. 22, WP1 – Progress and Challenges to Implementing Women, Peace and Security in Southeast Asia

Executive Summary

October 2020 marked 20 years since the adoption of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 (UNSCR 1325), which is a cornerstone of the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda. To commemorate the 20th anniversary of its passage, this paper assesses the implementation of UNSCR 1325 across Southeast Asia. It provides an in-depth analysis of progress and challenges to realizing core WPS commitments and achieving gender equality in Indonesia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand, Timor-Leste, and Vietnam. These countries were selected because each has endured recent or ongoing conflict and instability. In addition, five of these states are members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), allowing the study to explore the institutionalization of WPS within regional forums and how this shapes national-level WPS implementation.

About the author

Jennifer Howe ( is a PhD student at the Department of War Studies, King’s College London. Her research examines the under-explored relationship between truth commissions and violent extremism, with a particular focus on the ongoing conflict in Mindanao, Southern Philippines. She is a committee member of the King’s-based initiative, Women in War and International Politics, and a fellow at the Centre for the Study of Divided Societies. Prior to joining King’s, Jennifer worked as a resident Women, Peace and Security Fellow at the Pacific Forum. Her publications have investigated the impact of COVID-19 on conflict resolution and gender equality in Southeast Asia. She holds an M.A. in Politics and International Relations from Durham University, where she assessed the relationship between human rights compliance and transitional justice in East Asia.

2021 Issues & Insights Index

Issues & Insights is Pacific Forum’s publication series that includes special reports (SR), conference reports (CR), and working papers (WP). These in-depth analyses cover a range of topics and are published on an occasional basis. The following have been published in 2021 and are available online here.

Issues & Insights Vol. 21, WP 1 – The Climate of Civil Disobedience: Liberal Studies as a Political Instrument under Hong Kong’s Secondary Education Curriculum by Jason Hung

In the most recent decade Hong Kong has undergone mass socio-political unrest. The outbreak, and amplification, of citywide civil disobedience has been magnified by the launch and delivery of Liberal Studies as a compulsory subject under the local senior secondary education curriculum. This has raised the political consciousness and awareness of Hong Kong youth. This paper first presents an overview of the anti-national education curriculum campaigns, the Umbrella Movement and the consequent socio-political unrest. It will then explore the political controversies over the delivery of Liberal Studies. Next, it will analyze how Liberal Studies has been subject to curricular reforms, and discuss whether such amendments have been the result of politicization by the pro-Beijing camp to counter the proliferation of anti-government and anti-China sentiments among Hong Kong youth. Lastly, this research will assess whether the aims to offer Liberal Studies as part of the secondary education curriculum have been fulfilled, and discuss how to close the gaps between the expected and actual learning outputs.

Issues & Insights Vol. 21, WP 2 – The United States’ Indo–Pacific Strategy and a Revisionist China: Partnering with Small and Middle Powers in the Pacific Islands Region by Patrick Dupont

The advent of the Biden administration brings with it an opportunity for the United States to take a fresh look at the Pacific Islands Region (PIR) in the face of new geopolitical realities. Since the end of the Cold War, the PIR has largely been viewed by the United States as a tranquil backwater with little need for attention. Traditionally, the attention Washington did give to the region was exclusively focused on Micronesia—a region which contains both the Freely Associated States (FAS) and US territories such as Guam. The remainder of the PIR, the sub–regions of Melanesia and Polynesia, were often left to close US partners such as Australia and New Zealand. Washington’s strategic neglect of the PIR—coupled with a clear prioritisation of the FAS over other regional states—has overlapped with a gradual encroachment by non–traditional partners in an area where the United States has traditionally been the principal external power. These non–traditional partners range from US friends and allies such as Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan to strategic competitors such as Russia and China. Of these non–traditional partners, China has distinguished itself as the most significant in the PIR.

Issues & Insights Vol. 21, WP 3 – A New Era of US Policy Toward the Korean Peninsula by Joshua Nezam

This paper offers concrete policy recommendations and institutional tools for the incoming Biden administration and Congress to revise policy toward the Korean Peninsula. Deterring North Korea will remain a focus of the alliance, but prioritizing denuclearization must no longer monopolize the alliance’s political capital nor paralyze its global potential. The US and South Korea must clarify how shared values translate into policy convergence in security, economy, and technology domains to rediscover relevance in an era of multidimensional structural competition with China. Even without a comprehensive nuclear agreement with North Korea, the near-term priority must be to revitalize the regional security architecture to uphold extended deterrence to South Korea and Japan while institutionalizing a process of managing tensions and capping North Korea’s most destabilizing capabilities. Lastly, Congress must deliberate a viable path toward risk reduction and peace with Pyongyang while advocating for transformational change through advocacy for human rights and freedom of information.

Issues & Insights Vol. 21, WP 4 – What the Biden-Harris Administration means for WPS in the Indo-Pacific Region by Maryruth Belsey Priebe and Jennifer Howe

The election of Kamala Harris as the first woman of color to serve as vice president of the United States is a beacon of hope for women everywhere. We explore how her ground- breaking election, alongside the new administration’s visible support for gender equality, could advance women’s rights globally. More specifically, we consider the implications of a Biden-Harris White House for the implementation of the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda in the Indo-Pacific. A cornerstone of the WPS agenda is United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 (UNSCR 1325). Passed in 2000, UNSCR 1325 recognizes the gendered impacts of conflict and the importance of women’s inclusion in peace processes for long-term peace and stability. The WPS agenda consists of four overlapping pillars: Participation, Prevention, Protection, and Relief and Recovery. Addressing all four of these pillars is integral to ensuring full respect for human rights and cultivating sustainable peace. In this paper, we assess each pillar of the WPS Agenda from three angles—first, actions taken by Biden and Harris that indicate how they will engage with the WPS Agenda; second, progress and challenges to the implementation of the four WPS pillars in the Indo-Pacific; and, third, how the new administration could work with countries in the Indo-Pacific and other key stakeholders to overcome current challenges to the realization of core WPS objectives in the region.

Issues & Insights Vol. 21, WP 5 – No One is Satisfied: Two Theories of the US-China Global Rivalry and the International Order by Younn Shwe Sin Htay

A remarkable shift is underway in the geostrategic relations between the United States, long a dominant global power, and China, a relentless economic engine with a rapidly growing military. Their competition promises to change the face of global politics in the 21st century. This paper examines that conflict from the perspectives of two discrete political theories: power transition theory and hegemonic stability theory, which come to different conclusions when applied to China and the United States separately. However, taken together with both nations in mind, they arrive at six possible futures, including regional warfare and a wholesale overhaul of the existing international order.

Issues & Insights Vol. 21, WP 6 – The Opportunity is There: South Koreans’ Views of China and the Future of the US-ROK Alliance by John Lee

Officially, relations between the Republic of Korea and the People’s Republic of China remain cordial. Because of China’s economic heft and South Korea’s reliance on unmolested trade with the former for its continued economic development, South Korea takes great pains to be as neutral as possible between the United States and China despite its formal alliance with the US. As such, many pejoratively refer to South Korea as “the weak link” in America’s Northeast Asia alliance system. However, on a civil society level, an overwhelming majority of the South Korean public has a negative view of China—a view that has steadily gotten worse over time. Being a democracy that reflects voters’ popular will, growing anti-Chinese sentiment among voters means South Korea’s current policy of placating China will not be sustainable indefinitely. Meanwhile, the Trump administration largely neglected the alliance between South Korea and the United States. That neglect notwithstanding, an overwhelming majority of South Koreans either strongly or somewhat support the alliance with the United States. Conditions are perfect for the Biden administration to seek to repair and strengthen relations with South Korea to empower the alliance to serve as a credible bulwark against Chinese expansionism—this paper offers solutions on how to do so.

Issues & Insights Vol. 21, SR 1 – 21st Century Technologies, Geopolitics, and the US-Japan Alliance: Recognizing Game-changing Potential Edited by Brad Glosserman, Crystal Pryor, and Riho Aizawa

Throughout the month of October 2020, with support from the US Embassy Tokyo, the Pacific Forum cohosted with the Center for Rule-Making Strategies at Tama University, the Keio University Global Research Institute, and the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology a series of virtual panel discussions on “Game Changing Technologies and the US- Japan Alliance.” Over 280 individuals joined the 10 sessions – 7 closed door and 3 public panels – that examined issues such as artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles, big data, cybersecurity, drones, quantum computing, robots, and 3-D printing. A conversation of this length and breadth is difficult to summarize, but the following key findings attempt to capture this rich and variegated discussion.

Issues & Insights Vol. 21, WP 7 — Women, Peace and Security: A Competitive Edge for Australia and the US in the Indo-Pacific by Joan Johnson-Freese and Jacqui True

Australia and the United States face great power competition with China due to a narrowing of gaps between them—economically and militarily—in the Indo-Pacific region. This narrowing of gaps should not be a surprise to anyone who did not expect China to be content with static growth and technological inferiority. Great power competition is actually about a rise in parity among competitors. The “edge” previously held by Australia and the United States over China has become smaller; therefore “wins” will be by very thin margins. This means Australia and the United States need to find new advantages to widen their thin margins of excellence and maintain security. This paper will discuss why the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda offers an edge, and how implementing respective national action plans for WPS and partnering widely and strongly with other Indo-Pacific countries on WPS can offer such new advantages.

Issues & Insights Vol. 21, WP 8 — The ASEAN Regional Forum: Challenges and Prospects by Mohamed Jawhar Hassan

The ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) is a special organization with a unique group of participants and an uncommon mission that it is still, after 28 years, striving to accomplish amid a changing geopolitical environment. To reach its full potential, it must expand its horizons and address both sides of the security coin, namely conflict management and inclusive security cooperation, rather than continuing to confine itself to its traditional confidence building/conflict resolution mandate.

Issues & Insights Vol. 21, WP 9 — Framing Violence: US and Chinese State-Funded News Outlets during the Hong Kong Protests by Hanmin Kim

State-funded news media outlets and the ways in which they convey the messages of government and government-affiliated officials represent an essential but under-emphasized area of study in the realm of international diplomacy. Through a case study of the Hong Kong protests of 2019, this paper draws on theories from journalism and public diplomacy to analyze articles by state-funded media covering the unrest. This paper argues that the state-funded news outlets of the US and China used the same frame—violence and conflict—but approached the Hong Kong protests differently. Using this frame, state media outlets made themselves channels for government officials during the US-China rivalry, but made different arguments regarding the violence that occurred there. While US government-funded media focused on the violence of the Hong Kong Police Force as a danger to the territory’s democracy, Chinese state media emphasized the violence of the Hong Kong protestors as a danger to national security.

Issues & Insights Vol. 21, WP 10 — South Korea’s Demographic Advantage is Over: The Regional Context and the Economic and Security Implications by Tom Byrne and Jonathan Corrado

South Korea has the lowest birth rate in the world, its population—especially its working-age population—has declined, and the pronatalist polices of the past 20 years have not been successful at reversing this trend. Over time, this threatens the country’s economic and fiscal position, as well as its military position as the number of conscripts declines. While more advanced technology can help, over the long term it is no substitute for people, especially in the security realm. Overcoming this will require Korea to either shift to a new economic paradigm or else achieve a second Miracle on the Han River—this time demographic rather than economic.

Issues & Insights Vol. 21, WP 11 — How Chinese COVID-19 Vaccines Will Impact China-Indonesia Vaccine Diplomacy by Jason Hung

This research will discuss how Indonesia’s final-stage Sinovac clinical trial results will play a leading role in determining China’s diplomatic power amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The paper analyzes how vaccine diplomacy will impact China-Indonesia relations: if Sinovac proves inefficacious, Jakarta is unlikely to cut ties with Beijing but may consolidate relations with Washington. However, as the United States faces its own COVID-19 struggles, this paper examines how Beijing can continue to use vaccine diplomacy as leverage to strengthen and expand its influence in South China Sea (SCS) disputes with minimal interference from Washington. Additionally, the paper will evaluate how the reliability of China’s Sinovac vaccine—especially after Beijing’s supply of health care products to Europe were found to be of unsatisfactory quality—will affect the outcomes of vaccine diplomacy, determining whether Beijing can restore its reputation globally in order to facilitate bilateral or multilateral cooperation. Finally, the paper will assess how the outcome of China-Indonesia vaccine diplomacy will help determine China’s opportunities to compete with major Western powers in the global vaccine market in the long-term.

Issues & Insights Vol. 21, WP 12 — Strengthening Regional Energy Governance in the Mekong Subregion by Chen-sheng Hong

This paper explores the energy trilemma problems in the Mekong subregion and explains the necessity for regional energy governance. The current governmental cooperative mechanisms are an ineffective approach to regional energy governance in the Mekong subregion and should thus be strengthened.

Countries of the Mekong subregion are facing the following energy trilemma: energy security, energy poverty, and environmental sustainability problems. This paper argues that regional energy governance is needed in the Mekong subregion because the energy trilemma has transboundary externalities on the Mekong ecosystem and requires regional cooperation to be managed effectively. Effective regional energy governance is based on three components: coordination,general norms, and consideration of the regional context. The existing mechanisms for governance in the subregion are lacking these elements.

Issues & Insights Vol. 21, SR 2 — Advancing a Rules-based Maritime Order in the Indo-Pacific Edited by Jeffrey Ordaniel and John Bradford

Authors of this volume participated in the Indo-Pacific Maritime Security Expert Working Group’s 2021 workshop that took place, virtually on March 23-24. The working group, composed of esteemed international security scholars and maritime experts from Japan, the United States, and other Indo-Pacific states, was formed to promote effective U.S.-Japan cooperation on maritime security issues in the region through rigorous research on various legal interpretations, national policies, and cooperative frameworks to understand what is driving regional maritime tensions and what can be done to reduce those tensions. The workshop’s goal is to help generate sound, pragmatic and actionable policy solutions for the United States, Japan, and the wider region, and to ensure that the rule of law and the spirit of cooperation prevail in maritime Indo- Pacific.

Issues & Insights Vol. 21, CR1 — The United States and Viet Nam: Charting the Next 25 Years in Bilateral Security Relations by Jeffrey Ordaniel

Pacific Forum, with support from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) and in collaboration with the Diplomatic Academy of Viet Nam (DAV), organized the inaugural Track 2 U.S.-Viet Nam Security Dialogue on May 18-20, 2021. Strategic thinkers from the United States and Viet Nam, including scholars, policy experts, and retired military and government officials, participated in the dialogue. This report contains the general summary of the discussions.

Issues & Insights Vol. 21, CR 2 — The United States and Indonesia: Re-converging Security Interests in the Indo-Pacific by Jeffrey Ordaniel

Pacific Forum, with support from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) and in collaboration with the Centre for Strategic and International Studies Indonesia (CSIS), organized the inaugural Track 2 U.S.-Indonesia Security Dialogue on June 1-3, 2021. Thought leaders from the United States and Indonesia, including scholars, policy experts, and retired military and government officials, participated in the dialogue. This report contains the general summary of the discussions.

Issues & Insights Vol. 21, WP13 — European Contributions to Indo-Pacific Maritime Order by David Scott

This paper looks at European contributions to the Indo-Pacific maritime order. The policy significance is two- fold. Firstly, the Indo-Pacific has become an increasingly crucial geographic region, with a constellation of leading powers. The United States and Japan face a rising China, with India a vital swing state. European powers are now faced with choices of policy in response to power competition in the Indo-Pacific. This also reflects the rising geo-economic importance of the region, home to the world’s most populous countries, India and China, and critical commercial sea lanes. Secondly, European actors–France, Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the European Union (EU) –have all announced various specific Indo-Pacific strategies to support their interests. Nevertheless, despite European interests and contributions to Indo-Pacific security, the European response to China-related maritime challenges, such as those in the South China Sea, has been too limited. European states are finding it difficult to balance national security interests tied to maritime stability and rules-based order in the region, with economic interests tied to China, the world’s second-largest economy. Europe needs a principled approach and a long-term view of its overall interests in the South China Sea and the wider maritime Indo-Pacific.

Issues & Insights Vol. 21 SR 3 — Foes to Partners: 25 Years of U.S.-Vietnam Relations Edited by Jeffrey Ordaniel and Ariel Stenek

It has been 25 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Socialist  Republic of Vietnam and the United States. Throughout those 25 years, the relationship has achieved significant breakthroughs. The two Cold War adversaries are now close security and economic partners. In this volume, seven next-generation scholars and policy analysts from the United States and Vietnam examined the 25 years of U.S.-Vietnam bilateral relations from various perspectives. They provided fresh insights and offered policy prescriptions for moving the relationship forward.

Issues & Insights Vol. 21, CR 3 — US-Taiwan Deterrence and Defense Dialogue: Dealing with Increased Chinese Aggressiveness by Ralph A. Cossa

Taiwan needs much stronger friendships and more support, particularly from the United States, to counter Chinese moves and enhance deterrence of, and its defense potential against, Beijing. This is urgent because Taiwan no longer holds the qualitative advantage it once had over China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

The United States supports a strong, resilient, and democratic Taiwan capable of maintaining its autonomy and ability to counter coercion and defend itself from any source, especially from China. Absent this, Washington’s widely shared vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific would be permanently undermined.

It is clear, therefore, that the United States and Taiwan should step up their joint work and strengthen their security relationship, and it is critical that they do so expeditiously. At the same time, from a US perspective, it is important not to embolden Taipei or exceedingly raise its expectations about the US role to deter and defend against Beijing. While Washington has an interest in strengthening the island’s deterrence and defense potential vis-à-vis Beijing, it also does not want to encourage Taipei to become belligerent toward Beijing. Engagement, therefore, involves striking a tough balance, and many topics to that effect remain difficult—and much too sensitive—to address and discuss at the official level, particularly when it comes to deterrence and defense questions.

To this end, the Pacific Forum, in partnership with the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) and in cooperation with the Institute for National Defense and Security Research (INDSR), organized the inaugural Track 21 US-Taiwan Deterrence and Defense Dialogue. The dialogue aimed to: initiate a discussion between the United States and Taiwan on deterrence and defense, and produce actionable and operationally relevant recommendations for policy; and to build a community of senior and young, up-and-coming officials and strategists well-versed in these issues both in the United States and Taiwan.

Issues & Insights Vol. 21, WP14 — Imagined Currencies: How the DPRK Uses Cryptocurrency to Blunt Sanctions by Michael Buckalew

This research provides a contemporary study of how and why the Democratic Peoples’ Republic of Korea (DPRK) chose to integrate cryptocurrency into its sanctions evasion strategy, as well as the US government’s response to this via its financial services regulatory and federal law enforcement agencies. The increased coverage and efficacy of US and international sanctions, especially during and since President Obama’s second term (2013-2017) forced the DPRK to find new sources of revenue to maintain elite domestic support and fund their weapons programs. The creation and proliferation of cryptocurrency, which allows for both a digital store of value and a means of exchange outside of the traditional international finance system, opened up an entirely new means by which the DPRK was able to obtain and move funds. Much the DPRK’s cryptocurrency is obtained by the through the use of illicit methods and their success has blunted the impact of sanctions as a policy tool. As a result, US financial services regulators and law enforcement have moved to regulate cryptocurrency and crack down on illegal activities associated with it, such as ransomware payments. However, US regulations regarding cryptocurrency remain largely fragmented across agencies and various local jurisdictions.

Issues & Insights Vol. 21, SR4 — The United States and Singapore: Indo-Pacific Partners Edited by Jeffrey Ordaniel and Ariel Stenek

Authors of this volume participated in the inaugural U.S.- Singapore Next-Generation Leaders Initiative, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, through the U.S. Embassy Singapore. With backgrounds from academia, public policy, civil society and industry, the cohort brings rich insights on the past, present, and future of the U.S.-Singapore relationship. Between September 2020 and August 2021, cohort members engaged with senior experts and practitioners as they developed research papers addressing various aspects of the bilateral relationship.

Issues & Insights Vol. 21, WP15 — More Harm than Good: Why Chinese Sanctions over THAAD have Backfired by Daniel Mitchum

In 2017 South Korean Moon Jae-in, in response to North Korean ballistics testing, adopted a resolution to implement the THAAD missile interceptor system. Beijing had long been opposed to the system and as a result initiated a series of unofficial, punitive economic sanctions against South Korea which covered a range of industries. However, Beijing’s actions did little to alter Seoul’s decisions and have instead damaged China-South Korea relations. A similar paradigm has since appeared within China-Australia relations. How nations respond and adapt to such tactics in the future is a question of critical importance.

Issues & Insights Vol. 21, SR5 — Strategic Trade Controls in Southeast Asia: A Pandemic Update Edited by Crystal Pryor and Ellise Fujii

The Pacific Forum, with support from the US State Department’s Export Control and Related Border Security Program, held a virtual Seminar on Strategic Trade Controls in Southeast Asia on July 27-28, and August 5-6, 2020 via Zoom. Over 90 people from the Indo-Pacific region representing relevant government departments and ministries, private sector, industry associations, academia, and civil society organizations joined the seminar. Following the conference, several experts in attendance were invited to submit short analytical commentaries for compilation into this volume. Key themes from this conference, along with a summary of each paper contribution, are outlined below.

The seminar focused on four substantive topics: (1) the adoption of Strategic Trade Controls (STCs) for nonproliferation and internal security; (2) post-COVID-19 supply chains and trade facilitation; (3) ASEAN and STC; (4) the World Customs Organization, STC, and the exploration of maturity models. Following presentations and discussions on these topics, representatives from several Southeast Asian countries—Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Indonesia—offered updates on the adoption of STC in their respective jurisdictions.

Issues & Insights Vol. 21, SR5 — Strategic Trade Controls in Southeast Asia: A Pandemic Update

Executive Summary

The Pacific Forum, with support from the US State Department’s Export Control and Related Border Security Program, held a virtual Seminar on Strategic Trade Controls in Southeast Asia on July 27-28, and August 5-6, 2020 via Zoom. Over 90 people from the Indo-Pacific region representing relevant government departments and ministries, private sector, industry associations, academia, and civil society organizations joined the seminar. Following the conference, several experts in attendance were invited to submit short analytical commentaries for compilation into this volume. Key themes from this conference, along with a summary of each paper contribution, are outlined below.

The seminar focused on four substantive topics: (1) the adoption of Strategic Trade Controls (STCs) for nonproliferation and internal security; (2) post-COVID-19 supply chains and trade facilitation; (3) ASEAN and STC; (4) the World Customs Organization, STC, and the exploration of maturity models. Following presentations and discussions on these topics, representatives from several Southeast Asian countries—Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Indonesia—offered updates on the adoption of STC in their respective jurisdictions.

Panelists discussed the uneven STC implementation within the Southeast Asian region as evidenced by Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, and Thailand’s recent adoption or calibration of regulations while others, such as Vietnam, Cambodia, and Brunei have been slower to implement a more robust system. The region’s history of non-alignment, past experience with export controls as a coercive mechanism, prioritization of economic growth, and the view that STC can be used for technological denial fuels skepticism. ASEAN is a late entrant to the development of free trade zones and regional economic integration. Although it seeks to attract international investment, relaxed oversight, susceptibility to smuggling, and a lack of transparency inhibit growth.  Some participants suggested connecting STC with the World Customs Organization Authorized Economic Operator scheme as it can exist without a national STC system already in place.

Previous studies have shown that there is no negative effect stemming from the implementation of STCs, yet it can be argued that these studies have data limitations and that some use less-than-ideal methodologies. In fact, participants argued that the biggest impact of STC for developing countries seems not to be on exports, but on high-tech imports, access to Western markets, and garnering the trust of suppliers. STCs function to compel a company’s compliance by imposing reputational risks and penalties and can also provide opportunities; logistics companies can charge for strategic goods declarations, manufacturers can use bulk licenses to expedite delivery, and cybersecurity companies can better guarantee safe and inclusive supply chains. Companies should be shown that implementing Internal Compliance Programs (ICPs) are an investment. Setting up an ICP is only a fraction of annual revenue but allows access to a wider pool of technology, trade, and consumers, while non-major suppliers that import from the EU or the US can access more advanced technologies if they have safeguards established by ICPs.

Experts also discussed the impact of various international STC regimes, implications of the significant delays in the full implementation of the ASEAN Economic Community, and potential costs for countries that do not have a comprehensive STC management system in place. They also touched on the difficulties of controlling emerging technologies and a related lack of uniform standards. Participants highlighted the increasing difficulty in distinguishing between strategic trade and dual-use technologies, and noted that the US is moving toward protecting its strategic interests in the multilateral regimes while pushing others to incorporate broader national security considerations into technology controls. ASEAN is increasingly concerned about a regression into Cold-War style of export controls.

Bryan Early’s contribution to this special report, “Compliance in Crisis: The Impact of Covid-19 on Strategic Trade Controls,” examines the critical role of STC implementation, especially in preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. In light of individual countries’ obligation to implement appropriate and effective STCs, Early examines the adverse impact of COVID-19 on STC compliance.

Scott Jones’ piece, “The Compelling Logic of Integrating Markets: The Case for Common Strategic Trade Controls,” highlights the fractious nature of ASEAN’s STC implementation and the resulting threat to both regional and international proliferation. Deepening regional economic ties require harmonization of both economic and security policies. Therefore, Jones concludes that ASEAN should establish and coordinate common STC standards.

Seema Gahlaut’s paper, “The Role of ASEAN in Regional STC Development,” contextualizes the function of regional organizations in promoting international nonproliferation obligations. Gahlaut highlights these organizations’ ability to transcribe international obligations into regional standards and provide institutional links between nonproliferation mandates and economic and security dialogues.

Through his paper, “Maturity Model-based Approaches to Strategic Trade Control System Development,” Todd Perry establishes the utility of maturity models within the STC matrix and their ability to emphasize STC-related capabilities that states should acquire if seeking to create interagency-based STC proliferation risk reduction systems. Perry concludes that maturity models are an important part of the development and strengthening of STCs and in the mitigation of WMD proliferation.

The second half of this report moves from global and regional trends to a focus on national STC systems. Lorenz Anthony T. Fernando, Janice Sacedon-Dimayacyac, and Domina Pia S. Salazar examine the STC management system in the Philippines in “ASEAN STC Implementation: Strategies in the Implementation of the Philippine Strategic Trade Management Act.” As the authors illustrate, the Philippines has taken major strides to establish a strategic trade management regime, embodied in the 2015 Philippine Strategic Trade Management Act. The authors detail the importance of the Act and the role of the Philippine Strategic Trade Management Office in its implementation.

Moving to Myanmar, Phone Myint Naing focuses on the successes and failures of Naypyidaw’s pursuit of STCs in his “Updates on Myanmar’s STC System.” Crucially, although the Myanmar government has been implementing an STC system since 2016, it has been unable to prioritize it. COVID-19 has further complicated this process and thus the nation has fallen behind in legislation, licensing processes, industry engagement and interagency cooperation.

Through her paper “General Overview on Implementation of Strategic Trade Controls in Viet Nam,” Thu Pham highlights Hanoi’s willingness to cooperate with international partners to counter WMD proliferation. Pham also illustrates the challenges that Vietnam faces as it moves from the production of commercial goods to high-tech products.

Finally, Alfian Chaniago provides insight into Jakarta’s STC management in his piece “How Indonesia Customs Control Strategic Items.”  Chaniago illustrates that while Indonesia is not a member of international trade control regimes and does not have specific STC regulations, it has mechanisms in place to control strategic items. Chaniago then explores the role of the Directorate General of Customs and Excise in the implementation and enforcement of STC.

Taken as a whole, the region is moving toward improved STC implementation. Nonetheless, Southeast Asian countries face challenges ranging from global tensions over critical technologies and supply chains to domestic lack of resources or political will. The dialogue between relevant government departments and ministries, private sector, industry associations, academia, and civil society organizations within the United States and Southeast Asia must continue if we are to achieve our shared goals of economic growth and development while preventing the proliferation of WMD and related materials.

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About the Authors

Bryan R. Early is an Associate Professor of Political Science and Associate Dean for Research at the University at Albany, SUNY’s Rockefeller College of Public Affairs Policy. Early is also the founding director of the Project on International Security, Commerce, and Economic Statecraft and served as the Director of the Center for Policy Research from 2015-2019.  He has published 30 peer-reviewed academic articles on the topics such as economic sanctions, weapons of mass destruction (WMD) security issues, shadow economies, and political violence. Early earned his PhD from The University of Georgia in 2009 and is a former research fellow at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.

Scott A. Jones is a Nonresident Fellow at Stimson with the Trade, Technology, and Security program at the Stimson Center.  His areas of expertise are WMD nonproliferation, export controls, sanctions, and economics.  Jones is also a principal at TradeSecure, LLC. a global advisory firm focused on export control, FDI, sanctions, and trade compliance solutions.  Previously, Jones served as Director at the University of Georgia’s Center for International Trade and Security and foreign affairs analyst at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. He received his Ph.D. in international political economy at the University of Georgia and an MA at Lancaster University in the UK.

Seema Gahlaut is the Director of Strategic Trade Management Initiative (STMI), and Senior Fellow with the Trade, Technology and Security Program at the Stimson Center. Her areas of expertise are legal and institutional design of Strategic Trade Control/Management (STC/M) systems, UNSCR 1540 and sanctions implementation/enforcement, and CBRN security. Gahlaut has over 15 years of experience in conducting and managing training programs on STC for governments and industry. Prior to Stimson, Gahlaut served as the Assistant Director, Center for International Trade & Security (CITS) at the University of Georgia. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Georgia, USA and her Masters’ and M. Phil., degrees from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India.

Todd E. Perry works in the US Department of State’s Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation (ISN) as US Special Coordinator for United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1540. In this capacity, he guides US diplomacy in the 1540 Committee, promotes US and other 1540-related international outreach programs, and leverages ISN and US interagency expertise in support of the national reporting and assistance mandates of the 2004 resolution. Before joining State in 2019, Perry created and directed the US Department of Energy National Nuclear Security Administration’s (DOE/NNSA’s) International Nonproliferation Export Control Program (INECP). Perry received his Ph.D. in Government and Politics from the University of Maryland, College Park in 2001, and his B.A. from Grinnell College in 1985 with majors in French and Political Science.

Lorenz Anthony T. Fernando is the Chief of the Department of Trade and Industry Strategic Trade Management Office – Registration and Authorization Division (Philippines). Before joining the STMO, he handled research projects on green materials, biopolymers, and composites at the Department of Mining, Metallurgical, and Materials Engineering, University of the Philippines – Diliman. He is a registered chemical engineer with an MS in Materials Science and Engineering.

Janice Sacedon-Dimayacyac is the Assistant Director of the Philippine Strategic Trade Management Office. She has previously worked for the Supreme Court of the Philippines and an international law firm for 10 years.

Domina Pia S. Salazar is the Deputy Chief of the Strategic Trade Management Office Registration and Authorization Division. She previously worked as a Science Researcher and Forensic Chemist at the Department of Science and Technology – Philippine Textile Research Institute and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency. She is a registered chemist and is currently pursuing her master’s degree in chemistry.

Phone Myint Naing has served as a staff officer at the Department of Trade under the Ministry of Commerce, Myanmar since August 2016. Phone was a resident Nonproliferation Fellow of the Pacific Forum, a foreign policy research institute based in Honolulu, Hawaii from December 2017 to December 2018.

Pham Minh Thu is a Customs official with the International Cooperation Department at the General Department of Viet Nam Customs, where her duties focus on the implementation of international cooperation activities related to trade security including the US Department of State Export Control and Border Protection Program, the EU Dual-Use Items Control Program, and implementation of UNSC resolutions. Pham has participated in multiple bilateral and multilateral cooperation activities for the Viet Nam Customs office and has worked on Customs-related projects with Cambodia, Mexico, and the Netherlands. Additionally, Pham has headed projects including risk management and capacity training for Vietnamese Customs officials, funded by the Japanese government, and the Trade Facilitation Project funded by USAID.

Alfian Chaniago has served as Deputy Director of Multilateral at the Directorate of International and Public Affairs, Directorate General of Customs and Excise Indonesia, since April 2017.

Issues & Insights Vol. 21, WP15 — More Harm than Good: Why Chinese Sanctions over THAAD have Backfired


In 2017 South Korean Moon Jae-in, in response to North Korean ballistics testing, adopted a resolution to implement the THAAD missile interceptor system. Beijing had long been opposed to the system and as a result initiated a series of unofficial, punitive economic sanctions against South Korea which covered a range of industries. However, Beijing’s actions did little to alter Seoul’s decisions and have instead damaged China-South Korea relations. A similar paradigm has since appeared within China-Australia relations. How nations respond and adapt to such tactics in the future is a question of critical importance.

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About the Author

Daniel Mitchum ( has spent the last 12 years living and working in South Korea. He holds a dual BA in Global Politics and East Asian Studies from State University of New York, Albany and an MA in International Cooperation from Yonsei University’s Graduate School of International Studies, Seoul. The majority of Daniel’s master’s research was focused on North Korea, culminating in his thesis which explored the embeddedness of nuclear weapons within the DPRK regime. Daniel has previously worked with organizations such as Liberty in North Korea to aid North Korean refugees in acculturation, the North Korea Review academic journal as a blog writer and copy editor, as well as World Vision Korea as an assistant in HIV/AIDS awareness outreach. Beyond the Korean peninsula, Daniel’s research interests include East Asian geopolitics, the rise of China, and America’s East Asian alliance system.