- NBR - The National Bureau of Asian Research

Asia's Emerging Nuclear Dynamics

The Asia-Pacific will be the world’s most complex nuclear environment in the 21st century. The region’s existing nuclear powers are continuing to modernize and expand their capabilities, and there is a serious risk that several other states may seek to nuclearize in the coming years. Intensifying dyadic and triadic rivalries, the possible spread of nuclear capabilities, and the potential for further reductions to America’s nuclear arsenal will profoundly challenge U.S. policy, threaten stability throughout the region, and complicate the efforts of the international nonproliferation regime.

Principal Investigator

Matthew Kroenig
Associate Professor and International Relations Field Chair, Department of Government, Georgetown University

Senior Advisors

Aaron L. Friedberg
Professor of Politics and International Affairs, Princeton University

Robert Jervis
Adlai E. Stevenson Professor of International Politics, Columbia University

Ashley Tellis
Senior Associate, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Christopher P. Twomey
Associate Professor, U.S. Naval Postgraduate School

Project Lead

Tiffany Ma

Senior Director for Political and Security Affairs, The National Bureau of Asian Research

About the Project

From 2013 to 2017, NBR worked with leading experts in the United States and in Asia to study the complexities of Asia’s nuclear environment. This project informs a deeper and more nuanced understanding of the complex dynamics influencing the Asia-Pacific’s current and future nuclear environment and their implications for U.S. strategy.

Made possible by the generous support of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation of New York, this project has produced several major publications and convened dialogues among scholars and policymakers.

Project Objectives

  • Assess the Asia-Pacific’s current nuclear environment, focusing on how multiple nuclear rivalries are managed, and how the interconnectivity of Asia’s nuclear environment shapes the behavior of the region’s existing and potential nuclear powers
  • Explore potential future paths for the Asia-Pacific’s nuclear environment, and identify what factors could drive nuclear use, stability, proliferation, restraint, or retrenchment
  • Examine how foundational strategic concepts, such as deterrence, assurance, and reassurance, should be applied in a complex, multipolar environment
  • Assess the implications for American nuclear strategy and policy, especially the goal of reducing the size of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, and propose recommendations for the policy community
  • Evaluate options for regional actors to contribute to the stability of the Asia-Pacific environment and the health of the nuclear nonproliferation regime


For more information, please contact:

Alison Szalwinski
Director, Political and Security Affairs

Report: "Approaching Critical Mass: Asia's Multipolar Nuclear Future"

In an NBR Special Report, Matthew Kroenig (Georgetown University) explores the dynamics of a multipolar nuclear order in Asia and assesses the implications for U.S. foreign and defense policy.

North Korea and Asia's Evolving Nuclear Landscape: Challenges to Regional Stability

The progress of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile programs has been surprisingly rapid. Reports in July of the country’s first successful test of an ICBM stirred a new sense of urgency in the U.S. and across Northeast Asia. This report analyzes the factors shaping the evolving nuclear landscape in Asia.

Asia Policy Roundtable (January 2015)

Christopher P. Twomey, Rajesh Basrur, Benjamin Schreer, Noboru Yamaguchi, Kang Choi, P.K. Singh and Aaron L. Friedberg offer valuable insider understanding on how each country approaches decisions regarding nuclear strategy and, most importantly, on how nuclear dynamics influences the decisions and policies of individual government.

Singapore Workshop

In January 2014, NBR and S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) co-organized an international workshop on Asia's nuclear future. Participants addressed nuclear modernization in the Asia-Pacific, nuclear crisis stability in a complex multi-nodal environment, and the implications of advanced conventional strategic capabilities of regional strategies stability.

Strategic Asia 2013-14: Asia in the Second Nuclear Age

Part of NBR’s two-year initiative “Approaching Critical Mass,” the 2013-14 Strategic Asia volume examines the role of nuclear weapons in the grand strategies of key Asian states and the impact of these capabilities—both established and latent—on regional and international stability.