Asia Program

Since the turn of the millennium, East Asia has been one of the world’s largest motors of economic growth. But a lack of trust among countries, combined with growing uncertainty, is heightening security concerns in the region. East Asia has become a major armaments market, a trend triggered by the combination of an almost total absence of regional and sub-regional security cooperation with a blurring of the security policy status quo. China’s growing economic influence and increased capacity to project military power are putting existing cooperation mechanisms to the test in neighboring regions. As strategic competition grows, existing efforts to build up a cooperative security architecture are losing momentum.

East Asia is an arena where old conflicts, disputes, and expressions of nationalism could be rekindled at any time, with potential proxy conflicts also looming. Internationally, individual states and regions with long-term domestic conflicts (Myanmar, for example) are currently facing renewed geopolitical dilemmas. The longstanding nuclear conflict between the United States and North Korea, with all its attendant cycles of conflict, threatens to become part of the regional upheavals. At the same time, new partnerships and configurations are arising in the areas of economic cooperation and in terms of opening up new regions, which allow for new forms of cooperation independent of the security situation. China’s Belt Road initiative (BRI) is one such example.

The DGAP's Asia program focuses on the foreign and security policy priorities of individual actors in the region, analyzes existing conflict dynamics, and outlines possible approaches from the perspectives of conflict management and multilateral cooperation. Active exchange with regional actors and multi-track dialogue round out the program’s research activity. In addition, the Asia program examines the role – and meaning – of German and European foreign and security policy in regional developments.

Activities and Initiatives

  • Engagement and Cooperation with governments, parties, think tanks, and military institutions in the region
  • Studies of security risks and approaches to conflict management
  • Multi-track dialogue and consortia of experts

Areas of Focus

  • Regional security in Northeast Asia: Trends and approaches for a new security architecture
  • Chinese foreign and security policy
  • Regional security in Southeast Asia and South Asia
  • Trends and new approaches to conflict management on the Korean peninsula – and Europe’s role
  • China’s One Belt Road initiative: trends and obstacles
  • China’s role in the Middle East and Africa
  • Domestic developments and conflicts in Myanmar



  • All That Xi Wants

    China’s Communist Party is Trying to Reform the Country from the Top Down

    von Bernt Berger | China
    DGAPviewpoint 5, 2018, 3 pp.

    All That Xi Wants

    The Chinese Communist Party leadership's move to drop the constitutional limits restricting President Xi Jinping’s tenure have been interpreted as a long-term power grab by many international media. This view, however, misses a crucial point: The Central Committee is embarking on reforms to consolidate the government – from the top down. Not yet on board in this process are key stakeholders.

  • The consequences of US withdrawal from the Iran deal

    von Bernt Berger | Iran, Security
    The Interpreter, Lowy Institute, October 13, 2017

    The consequences of US withdrawal from the Iran deal

    By 15 October, US President Donald Trump will need to choose whether to certify Iran's compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, otherwise known as the Iran nuclear deal.

  • A Standoff Turned Standstill

    Solving the North Korea conflict requires new thinking and a different tool kit

    von Bernt Berger | North Korea, Conflict-Prevention
    DGAPstandpunkt 10 (September 2017), 4 pages.

    A Standoff Turned Standstill

    The standoff between North Korea and US is, in fact, a standstill – despite the increasing rhetoric of condemnation and confrontation on both sides. According to Bernt Berger, senior fellow for the DGAP's Asia program, moving beyond the spiral of conflict requires recognizing that a new status quo has emerged, changing the narrative that frames the conflict for further negotiations, and encouraging international support and mediation.

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