ASAN Plenum 2015: Is the US back?

ASAN plenum 2

At the beginning of June I was in Seoul for the annual ‘Plenum’ of the ASAN Institute, the theme of which was “Is the US back?”, and then gave a talk at the Green School of Korea University.

At the ASAN Plenum I was part of an energy panel on the shale revolution along with Mikkal Herberg (National Bureau of Asian Research), Edward Chow (CSIS), and Chen Weidong (CNOOC).


But the main action was on hard security and international relations.

Speakers of note included:

–          Henry Kissinger, via video link

–          Prince Turki AlFaisal (for 22 years head of Saudi’s national security apparatus)

–          Korea’s Foreign Minister

–          Jim Steinberg, previously deputy secretary of state to Hilary Clinton and deputy national security adviser to Bill Clinton.

And many other senor or retired (but still influential) national figures from North America and East Asia. I was the only person from SE Asia.

Key messages I took away were;

–          The US remains a necessary part of global governance, but no longer sufficient.

–          US-China cooperation on certain activities (eg energy) does not spill over to other spheres (eg regional security) and is unlikely to do so on account of contrasting values and misreading of each others’ intentions.

–          Differences between China, Japan and ROK remain unresolved (eg history problem) and are likely to remain so for some time; risk that economic issues become securitised. (interesting observation that the current leaders of all three countries belong to family dynasties).

–          The demise of the DPRK (whenever that will be) will be long and bloody.

Happy days…..


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