- NBR - The National Bureau of Asian Research

Pacific Trilateralism

The United States has few stronger interests in the Asia-Pacific than turning its robust alliances with Japan and the Republic of Korea (ROK) into a trilateral relationship marked by cooperation, good will, and mutual understanding.

Project Objectives

This project identifies ongoing and future security challenges affecting the United States, Japan, and the ROK; proposes recommendations for strengthening their trilateral relationship in the coming decades; and promotes increased discussion of the trilateral relationship within U.S., Japanese, and ROK policymaking communities.

Project Activities

This ambitious three-year initiative will have three phases:

  • Phase I featured a series of briefs by U.S., Korean, and Japanese experts on important ongoing and future security challenges affecting the trilateral relationship. The experts Daniel Sneider (Stanford University), Yul Sohn (Yonsei University), and Yoshihide Soeya (Keio University), participated in a congressional roundtable event and published recommendations in an NBR Special Report.
  • Phase II will be driven by the formation of a Pacific Trilateral Commission that will meet with policymakers and key stakeholders in all three countries to derive a holistic view of current dynamics in the relationship.
  • Phase III will incorporate the initial findings from the previous phases into a major policy monograph authored by a principal investigator.

Throughout all three phases, NBR will engage with government officials and policymakers to ensure that the project addresses the issues that are important for our audience, and disseminates policy-relevant conclusions and recommendations.


For further information, please contact:

Alison Szalwinski
Director, Political and Security Affairs

Download a one-page Pacific Trilateralism overview.

The Pacific Trilateralism briefs were produced with support from the Korea Foundation, the Japan–United States Friendship Commission, and the Center for Global Partnership (CGP).

The Case for U.S.-ROK-Japan Trilateralism: Strengths and Limitations

A new NBR Special Report on the U.S.-ROK-Japan relationship examines several case studies of trilateralism and offers concrete recommendations for strengthening trilateral cooperation in four key areas: regional security, nontraditional security, energy security, and the emerging domains of space and cybersecurity.

U.S.-ROK-Japan Trilateralism: Building Bridges and Strengthening Cooperation

In this NBR Special Report, experts from the United States, South Korea, and Japan offer critical insights into both the past and future of trilateral cooperation and provide recommendations for leaders in all three nations on how to move the relationship forward.

Pacific Trilateralism: A New Narrative of Cooperation

NBR convened a workshop in Washington, D.C., to mark the launch of the Pacific Trilateral Commission and provide a forum for its members and other experts to exchange analysis of recent developments relating to the U.S.-ROK-Japan relationship and the policies needed to strengthen trilateral cooperation. Read the workshop report.

U.S.-ROK-Japan Pacific Trilateralism Workshop Summary

In March 2017 the U.S.-ROK-Japan Pacific Trilateralism project cochairs convened workshops in Seoul and Tokyo on four broad categories: regional security threats, trilateral energy security cooperation, nontraditional security, and emerging domains. Read a summary of the discussions and recommendations.

Advancing U.S.-Japan-ROK Trilateral Cooperation: A U.S. Perspective

Daniel Sneider (Stanford University) analyzes the foundations and future of the trilateral relationship from a U.S. perspective, highlighting the critical role the United States has played in mediating tensions between South Korea and Japan.

The Future of U.S.-Japan-ROK Trilateral Cooperation: A Japanese Perspective

Yoshihide Soeya, Professor of Political Science and International Relations at the Faculty of Law of Keio University, reflects on the U.S.-Japan-ROK trilateral relationship from a Japanese perspective.

Relocating Trilateralism in a Broader Regional Architecture: A South Korean Perspective

Yul Sohn, Dean of the Graduate School of International Studies and Professor of International and Japanese Political Economy at Yonsei University in Seoul, reflects on the U.S.-Japan-ROK trilateral relationship from a South Korean perspective.