- Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School Belfer Center Newsletter

Yvonne Yew Offers Insight into Crucial Asian Security Issues

  • Ramiro Gonzalez Lorca
| Summer 2013

"Researching Asian security issues has never been more topical," Yvonne Yew said in discussing her work at the Belfer Center. Despite Asia’s economic growth, she said, "simmering tensions, territorial disputes, nuclear proliferation concerns, and military skirmishes serve to potentially undermine the region’s peace and prosperity." As a former Singaporean diplomat and representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Yew is in a unique position to view security issues spurred by the momentous and ongoing rise of Asia.

Yew's diplomatic work covered a variety of regional and multilateral issues in Asia and Europe. Her last posting was in Austria, where she served, in the mid-2000s, as the alternate representative and governor to the IAEA during Singapore's term on its board of governors.

Yew acknowledges the correlation in Asia between higher GDP's and increased defense spending and modernization and posits a "clear need to situate these developments within a regional architecture that promotes stability." She believes a critical feature impacting the region is the shape and direction of the relationship between the United States and China. "Given the complex and multi-dimensional nature of Sino-American ties, it is important to frame big-power relations in a manner that avoids a negative action-reaction cycle." This will likely require a relationship, she said, that "accepts the reality of competition, the importance of cooperation, the fact that both are not mutually exclusive, and upsizing the positives."

At two recent Harvard conferences on Asian International Relations and Business and Security matters, Yew argued that the intersection of security, economy, and the environment translates into the need to focus on structures that can incentivize cooperation between regional actors, rather than confrontation across sectors.

A number of dialogue mechanisms and forums of various combinations currently exist, she said, involving Asian and Pacific governments that "directly or indirectly address traditional as well as non-traditional security matters." While these do not provide security in the same sense as bilateral alliance structures, Yew sees them as supplementing the traditional security architecture by "enhancing and expanding cooperation in a multilateral setting and promoting accepted norms of conduct."

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Gonzalez Lorca, Ramiro. Yvonne Yew Offers Insight into Crucial Asian Security Issues.” Belfer Center Newsletter (Summer 2013).

The Author


Yvonne Yew