Australia-Japan-United States Next Generation Policy Forum Panels

Australia-Japan-United States Next Generation Policy Forum Panels

Published 19 Apr 2021

The Australia-Japan-United States Next Generation Policy Forum is a series of online events created for early career professionals. If you are starting a career and have an interest in Indo-Pacific issues, apply to join the forum here.

Panels and Experts for the forum are as follows:

The Potential for Accidental Conflict in the Indo-Pacific

The Indo-Pacific is an increasingly severe diplomatic and military environment. Relations between China and the United States, as well as U.S. allies in the region, notably Australia and Japan, have reached a new low since diplomatic normalisation with Beijing in the 1970s. Contested territorial and maritime claims between China and other nations in the South and East China Seas, “grey zone” activity, China’s increasing pressure on Taiwan, and the ongoing tensions between U.S. and South Korean forces on one hand and North Korea on the other have strategists worried about the threat of escalation. To what extent should we be concerned about “accidental conflict” in the region? When it comes to accidents, are there subregions around the Indo-Pacific that should concern us more than others? What steps can be taken to ensure that accidents or incidents in the region do not spiral out of control?


Brendan Taylor, The Australian National University

Chikako Kawakatsu Ueki, Waseda University

Duyeon Kim, Center for a New American Security

Aligning Approaches to the Law of the Sea in the Indo-Pacific

China’s assertive behaviour in the South and East China Seas over the last decade has brought maritime issues to the fore in the region. Indeed, the Indo-Pacific was arguably developed as a strategic concept precisely to refocus the attention of regional actors toward the maritime sphere. China’s maritime claims clearly challenge the provisions of the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and thus have been the focus of recent discussions around the International Law of the Sea. However, such discussions less frequently note the differences between other states in the region. How problematic are different interpretations of UNCLOS when it comes to settling maritime disputes? Do divergent perspectives on the International Law of the Sea between claimant states weaken their position vis-à-vis China? How can regional states cooperate to strengthen the legal regime governing the oceans?


Bec Strating, La Trobe Asia

Lynn Kuok, The International Institute for Strategic Studies

Kyoko Hatakeyama, University of Niigata Prefecture

Rachel Esplin Odell, Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft

Regional Development in the Indo-Pacific

The Indo-Pacific region is characterized by significant divergences in income and living standards among and within countries. Australia’s AusAid, the United States’ USAID, and the Japan International Cooperation Agency fund robust programs throughout the Indo-Pacific that pump hundreds of millions of dollars into the region each year, and there is strong trilateral commitment to improving connectivity in the region. China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), also a development powerhouse in the region, raises significant questions about the intersection of development and geopolitical competition. To what extent does the BRI framework influence the United States, Australia, and Japan’s provision of development assistance? What changes have the pandemic brought to Chinese and trilateral development priorities in the Indo-Pacific? For those living in the region who stand to benefit from existing and planned development projects, does it matter who foots the bill?


Pichamon Yeophantong, UNSW Canberra at the Australian Defence Force Academy

Yoichiro Sato, Ritsumeikan Asia-Pacific University

Steve Olive, US Agency for International Development

Connectivity in the Indo-Pacific

Australia, Japan and the United States have spoken of their trilateral partnership for infrastructure investment as a “force multiplier in the Indo-Pacific, providing a new vehicle through which countries in the region can coordinate to advance their infrastructure priorities. Despite an enthusiastic start in November 2018, however, only one project, an undersea cable connecting Palau to other countries in the Indo-Pacific, is underway. What measures should the three nations undertake to foster infrastructure development leading to connectivity in the region? How can these Japan, Australia, and the United States better coordinate on regional infrastructure? What regional connectivity projects will yield the greatest benefits to local populations? What policies can better motivate private investment in such regional projects?


Hayley Channer, Perth USAsia Centre

Kristi Govella, University of Hawaii at Manoa


COVID-19 Recovery and Health Cooperation

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a devastating force throughout the Indo-Pacific.  Experiences have varied widely, and national responses are often reflective of the domestic political climates.  Despite the physical separation required to stop the spread of disease, the pandemic has sparked major regional cooperation initiatives in the public health sector. A notable example is the Quad Vaccine Partnership, in which vaccines produced in India, funded by the United States and Japan, and distributed by Australia will have a tremendous impact on individual lives and livelihoods and will accelerate a return to the “new normal”.  As vaccines become increasingly widespread, it now possible to reflect on the lessons learned to build resilience for future health crises. What can Australia, Japan, and the United States learn from each other’s approaches to the COVID-19 crisis? How does the Quad Vaccine Program fit in to the general trends of cooperation in the Indo-Pacific? Looking ahead, is the region prepared to take on the next health crisis?



Energy and the Environment

As concerns over access to energy and raw material increase, there has been significant investment throughout the Indo-Pacific into new energy solutions, particularly green energy solutions. However, the region remains heavily reliant on coal and fossil fuels. It is quickly becoming clear that such reliance is unsustainable due to the precarious strategic position of energy supply chains and because the region is highly vulnerable to climate change. As such, the appeal of reducing reliance on coal and fossil fuels is strong. What are the major challenges the region will face in the coming years as the effects of climate change are felt more intensely? In the development space, what actions are being taken to build green energy capacity? Is such capacity being built in a way that promotes national energy production and self-reliance, and if so, how does this fit in with the US, Japan, and Australia’s commitment to connectivity?

Llewelyn Hughes, The Australian National University

Clara Gillispie, The National Bureau for Asian Research

Arima Jun, University of Tokyo