The U.S.-Japan-ROK Strategic Triangle and Maritime Security

Building Capacity in Northeast Asia and in the Broader Indo-Pacific Region

A Trilateral Dialogue Workshop

June 17, 2016

Washington, D.C.


Welcome and Opening Remarks

Dr. Charles Perry, Vice President & Director of Studies, IFPA

Lunch and Keynote Address

Speaker: Vice Admiral Robert L. Thomas, Jr., USN, Director, Navy Staff and former Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet
Introduced by Dr. Charles Perry, IFPA

Session 1
Session 2
Session 3
Session 4
  • Session 1: Trilateral Cooperation after North Korea’s Latest Provocations: Opportunities and Constraints 

    Over the past year, many of the tensions in Japanese-South Korean relations (especially those of an historical nature) that impeded closer bilateral and, by extension, trilateral cooperation with the United States, have eased.  At the same time, the need for a coordinated U.S.-Japan-ROK response to North Korea’s latest nuclear test and ballistic missile launches has given new life to trilateralism, as have, to some degree at least, common concerns over security risks in the South China Sea.  The question remains, however, how effectively the three allies can take advantage of the improving climate for trilateralism?  Is it sustainable or will tensions inevitably reemerge?  Are there ways to insulate the momentum and keep opportunities for enhanced cooperation open over the longer term?  How will domestic political trends in all three countries affect what can be achieved?  What specific policies might be constrained by ongoing differences among the three allies?  Conversely, apart from closer cooperation on North Korea policy, on what other security issues is trilateralism likely to move forward, and with regard to what specific geographic sectors of the broader Indo-Pacific region?  Most importantly, to what extent do current trends pave the way for wider U.S.-Japan-ROK cooperation on maritime security going forward?  How might additional nuclear and ICBM tests by North Korea affect support for such cooperation?

    Moderator: Dr. Charles Perry, IFPA

    U.S.: Evans Revere, Non-Resident Senior Fellow, Center for East Asia Policy Studies, Brookings Institution; Senior Director, Albright Stonebridge Group; and former Acting Assistant Secretary and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs.

    Japan: Dr. Narushige “Michi” Michishita, Professor, National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS); and Visiting Fellow, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

    ROK: Dr. Sung Han Kim, former Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs; Professor of International Relations and Director of the Ilmin International Relations Institute, Korea University. Dr. Kang Choi, Vice President for Research and Director of the Center for Foreign Policy and National Security, Asan Institute for Policy Studies; and former Senior Director for Policy Planning and Coordination at the National Security Council Secretariat.

    Remarks by AMB Sung Kim, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Korea and Japan and Special Representative for North Korean Policy, U.S. Department of State.

  • Session 2: The Convergence of Allied and Partner Country Maritime Interests in the Broader Indo-Pacific: Priorities, Capabilities, and Operational Challenges

    Together, America’s ongoing pursuit of a rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific, Japan’s articulation of a more “proactive,” regionally focused security strategy, and the ROK’s greater focus on off-peninsula security missions would all seem to offer new opportunities (and greater incentives) for trilateral cooperation on maritime security in Northeast Asia and beyond.  That said, differing risk assessments, divergent mission priorities, ongoing capability gaps, and unresolved operational disconnects may still complicate effective collaboration.  The objective of this session, therefore, is to develop a realistic assessment of how and where maritime collaboration among the three allies can best be advanced in the years ahead, the extent to which it is likely to dovetail with (and support) the maritime interests of other key players and potential partners in the Indo-Pacific region, and what can be done to remove ongoing roadblocks to a more effective division of labor.  In the context of President Obama’s expressed concerns about “free riders,” on one hand, and a need, on the other hand, to give greater priority to the Asia-Pacific, is it really possible to achieve a more equitable sharing of the security burden in maritime Asia?            

    Against the backdrop of new sanctions imposed on North Korea, for example, have the prospects increased for trilateral cooperation on Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) operations at sea and sea-based missile defense?  If so, what needs to be done politically and operationally to push such cooperation forward?  Do the three countries share compatible (if not exactly identical) approaches to maritime domain awareness (MDA), information/intelligence sharing, ISR, and the need for a common operating picture (COP)?  To what extent might near-term efforts to implement the U.S.-Japan Defense Guidelines create opportunities for trilateral cooperation on particular roles and missions?  Do Tokyo, Seoul, and Washington agree on how to handle “grey zone” contingencies and hybrid security challenges in the maritime realm?  Are they able, in this context, to promote closer coordination between coast guard and naval forces, in part to deal with the growth of non-military and paramilitary threats?  What about cooperative air operations above the seas?  Are there other maritime missions, such as counter-piracy, sea-lane defense, ASW, and HA/DR operations, that stand out as ideal stepping stones to broader trilateral cooperation?

    Beyond specific missions, to what extent are all three countries coordinating efforts to develop new and/or expanded maritime partnerships with Australia, India, select ASEAN countries, and even China?  Can they be leveraged to strengthen trilateralism?  Does Prime Minister Abe’s “diamond concept,” centered on closer naval coordination among Japan, India, the United States, and Australia, offer a promising path ahead?  How will potential defense spending constraints among the key players affect what can be achieved?       

    Within the current security setting, moreover, can cooperation on out-of-area operations be used more effectively to promote trilateral maritime cooperation closer to home?  More specifically, can Japan and South Korea draw on what they’ve learned from participating in multilateral operations in the Gulf of Aden to collaborate more closely in maritime Asia?  If so, how might they do it, and how could the United States help?  And with regard to emerging areas of operation, what are the prospects for closer cooperation in the increasingly accessible and strategically vital Arctic?

    Moderator:James Schoff, , Senior Associate-Asia Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

    U.S.: RADM Michael McDevitt, USN (Ret.), Senior Fellow, Strategic Studies Division, CNA Corporation.

    Japan: VADM Masanori Yoshida, JMSDF (Ret.), Vice President of International Security Affairs, Sojitz Corporation of America. The Honorable Masanori Nishi, Former Administrative Vice Minister of Defense; and Distinguished Visiting Fellow, Japan Chair, Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

    ROK: Dr. Kang Choi, Asan Institute for Policy Studies. Dr. Chung Min Lee, Professor, Graduate School of International Studies, Yonsei University; Non-Resident Senior Fellow, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; and former Ambassador for National Security Affairs.

  • Session 3: Responding to China’s Growing Maritime Capabilities and Potential Crises in the East and South China Seas

    For the next decade and beyond, the trend toward greater Chinese control over – and broader militarization of – the South China Sea promises to be one of the most significant (and potentially destabilizing) security developments in maritime Asia, and it will unquestionably have a direct impact on how (and, in certain cases, even whether) Japan, South Korea, and the United States operate naval forces and engage with local partners, singly and together, in this strategically important region.  What happens in the South China Sea, moreover, will influence as well security dynamics and maritime postures to the north in the East China Sea and to the east and south in the broader Western Pacific and Indian Ocean.  This session will take a hard look at the way in which the three allies weigh the various risks and implications of a China that becomes increasingly dominant in the South China Sea, how they think that could shape events in the wider Indo-Pacific, and what they may be willing and able to do about it, especially in the event of a crisis that threatens to escalate, be it vertically and/or horizontally.  Discussion will also focus on the prospects for reaching agreement with China on confidence-building measures (CBMs) and related efforts to reduce risks and the potential for miscalculations at sea.      

    Are Tokyo, Seoul, and Washington likely to share a common perspective, for example, on the dangers associated with steps by Beijing to pursue a more comprehensive posture of militarization on and around the islands and reefs it has reclaimed in the South China Sea, including via the deployment of advanced radars, anti-ship missiles (ASMs), and long-range aircraft?  Do they share similar concerns about the expansion of China’s anti-access and area denial (A2/AD) and power projection capabilities within and beyond the first island chain, and, if not, why not?  What about China’s future deployment of a second aircraft carrier and/or a marked increase in patrols by cruise missile-firing diesel submarines and SSBNs?  Are there ways in which the navies of Japan, South Korea, the United States, and other partners could collaborate to assure appropriate access to, and reinforce a capacity to operate effectively within (and over), the South China Sea and its maritime approaches? 

    More specifically, would Japan and the ROK ever agree to joint freedom of navigation (FON) patrols with the U.S. Navy, and, if so, under what rules of engagement?  Would the inclusion of ships from other regional navies, such as India’s and Australia’s, facilitate or complicate things?  What about other types of maritime operations and exercises to establish a more regular presence in the South China Sea?  How, moreover, would the three allies likely respond, individually and in concert, to China’s declaration of an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) over most of the South China Sea?  Are there lessons in this regard to draw upon based on China’s declaration of an ADIZ over large parts of the East China Sea?

    Conversely, to what extent are Japan and the ROK likely to adjust their plans for maritime security and island defense in the East China Sea and Yellow Sea arenas based on China’s activities in the South China Sea?  And what if crises were to develop simultaneously (or nearly so) in both the East and South China Sea sectors?  Are the three allies prepared to handle such an eventuality?  What can they do in concert with China to avoid such a crisis well beforehand and to dampen it quickly if it cannot be avoided?  What, moreover, can Japan, South Korea, and the United Sates do to bring their respective policies on crisis management and escalation control at sea into greater synch?    

    Finally, now that Japan, South Korea, and the United States have all set in motion fairly robust maritime capacity-building efforts with key allies and partner nations within the South China Sea region, are there ways that these various efforts can be better coordinated in the years ahead?  How can the allies maximize investments made, ensure that they are sustainable, and avoid unnecessary duplication?  In what ways can closer cooperation with Australia on capacity building in the region improve the situation?  What are the implications for defense sales and security assistance packages?

    Moderator: Dr. Toshi Yoshihara, John A. van Beuren Chair of Asia-Pacific Studies, U.S. Naval War College (USNWC)

    U.S.: Dr. James Holmes, Professor of Strategy and Policy, USNWC. Dr. Patrick Cronin, Senior Director, Asia-Pacific Security Program, Center for a New American Security (CNAS).

    Japan: Tetsuo Kotani, Senior Fellow, Japan Institute of International Affairs (JIIA). Dr. Ken Jimbo, Associate Professor, Faculty of Policy Management and Center for Asia-Pacific Studies, Keio University.

    ROK: Dr. Chung Min Lee, Yonsei University. Dr. Jina Kim, Associate Research Fellow, Korea Institute for Defense Analyses (KIDA).

  • Session 4: Strengthening Trilateral Cooperation Throughout Maritime Asia: What More Can and Needs to Be Done?

    Given the day’s discussions, what more can and should be done on a priority basis to promote and consolidate trilateral cooperation in the maritime realm?  Can it be used more effectively as a building block in concert with other cooperative frameworks – and, if so, how – to achieve common security cooperation objectives on a broader scale in the Indo-Pacific region?  What could be done, for example, by means of a more regular schedule of exercises, training initiatives, personnel exchanges, and trilateral dialogues at the operational level to establish a common set of doctrines, strategies, tactics, and procedures with regard to maritime security and safety?

    At the higher policy level, can (and should) the three allies reach agreement on a common set of norms and principles on key aspects of maritime law, operations, and capacity building as a way to advance cooperation?  Might this usefully include trilateral communiques on such issues as joint FON patrols, associated rules of the road, security assistance for regional partners, and the militarization of disputed territories?  On the other hand, to what extent might rising tensions (if not outright conflict) on the Korean Peninsula heighten both the need and the opportunities for closer trilateral coordination on North Korean (as opposed to South China Sea) maritime contingencies?      

    On the hardware and defense acquisition front, in what mission areas (and how) can the allies improve interoperability among their forces?  Where are the greatest needs and the best opportunities for cooperative R&D and technical innovation in the maritime realm?  What do the trend lines with regard to defense investments and defense industrial cooperation suggest on this score?   

    Finally, but far from least, to what extent (and how) can the three allies develop compatible strategies for engaging China and managing its inevitable emergence as a more powerful maritime nation in the Indo-Pacific, while at the same time countering undue assertiveness on Beijing’s part where and when necessary?  What would be the essential components of a coordinated approach along these lines?  What can and should be done with China by way of hotlines and related crisis management tools to build better lines of communication and reduce the potential for incidents at sea that could spin out of control?

    Moderator: Dr. Chung Min Lee, Yonsei University

    U.S.:Dr. Michael Green, Senior Vice President for Asia and Japan Chair, CSIS; Chair in Modern and Contemporary Japanese Politics and Foreign Policy, Georgetown University. 

    Japan: The Honorable Hideshi Tokuchi, former Vice Minister of Defense for International Affairs; Senior Research Advisor, Institute of International Policy Studies; Visiting Fellow, Institute of International Relations, Sophia University; and Senior Fellow, GRIPS. CAPT Takuya “Shimo” Shimodaira, MSDF, Liaison Officer and Visiting Military Professor, International Programs Department,  USNWC.

    ROK: Dr. Beom-cheol Shin, Director General for Policy Planning, Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Dr. Sung Han Kim, Korea University.

    Remarks by Abraham M. Denmark, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for East Asia, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs.