#SummerSFS: Young Leaders in Dialogue

by Yusuke Saito, MSFS '18

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On June 19, I participated in the Trilateral Strategic Dialogue in Maui, Hawaii as one of the members of the Young Leaders Program. The Young Leaders Program is an initiative facilitated by The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) Pacific Forum, training young professionals in international policy affairs at an early juncture in their careers. Fortunately, I was selected as one of them and had the opportunity to attend the Trilateral Strategic Dialogue.

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The dialogue among Japan, South Korea and the U.S., hosted by the Pacific Forum CSIS, mainly consisted of two parts: overall discussion and Table Top Exercises (TTX). In addition to the young leaders, participants consisted of prominent scholars as well as high-ranking officers in foreign service, defense and the military in each country.

The main topic discussed was how to approach North Korea’s nuclear threat and provocation. Participants looked to the young leaders particularly for their fresh viewpoints on the topic. Each of the TTX were based on real-world scenarios, including dynamic and constantly changing conditions. Therefore, participants had to have both profound knowledge of the security environment of East Asia, as well as critical thinking to keep up with shifting circumstances. During the TTX, I realized that the knowledge and critical thinking I learned at MSFS tremendously helped me in contributing valuable input.

In addition, I realized that recognizing and respecting different ways of thinking, and keeping in mind overall goal at hand, which I learned from my MSFS classmates, helped me tremendously during discussion. There were several differences in ways of thinking and risk assessment among the three countries; sometimes we agreed to disagree. The skills I learned at MSFS made the dialogue significantly fruitful.

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The most precious thing I found from the dialogue were the new friends I got to know. I learned a lot from interactions with smart young leaders, which motivated me to study more, not only within my classes but also from people with different backgrounds from all over the world. I am certain that MSFS can provide both for me.

Given that the situation in East Asia is becoming more and more complicated, I hope what I learned with the other young leaders who play important roles in each country’s future will ultimately contribute to peace and stability in the region.