NEW YORK, October 31, 2019 – The National Committee on American Foreign Policy (NCAFP) President and CEO Susan M. Elliott announced today the appointment of Susan A. Thornton as Project Director of its Forum on Asia-Pacific Security, effective January 1, 2020. Ms. Thornton retired from U.S. government service in summer 2018 and is a Senior Fellow at the Paul Tsai China Center at Yale Law School, where she will remain concurrently affiliated.
Ms. Thornton will succeed current FAPS Project Director, Professor Donald S. Zagoria, who notified the NCAFP Board of Trustees of his decision to retire earlier this year, following a remarkable career as a thought leader on security and diplomacy in the Asia Pacific.
Jeffrey R. Shafer, NCAFP Chairman said, “The NCAFP’s Forum on Asia-Pacific Security, which has been ably led by Professor Donald S. Zagoria for over twenty years, has contributed to peace and stability in East Asia by conducting authoritative unofficial diplomatic discussions. There is no person better suited to continue the legacy of Professor Zagoria than Susan Thornton, who has the practical experience and strategic foresight needed to navigate the pressing foreign policy and security challenges confronting this increasingly important region of the world.”
The Forum on Asia-Pacific Security (FAPS) is the flagship program of the NCAFP, a non-profit and non-partisan policy organization founded by Hans J. Morgenthau to support American foreign policy interests through Track II, or unofficial, diplomacy. FAPS has made notable contributions to managing tensions across the Taiwan Strait as the only American organization that holds regular dialogues with participants from Taiwan, the U.S. and Mainland China; and to resolving the North Korean nuclear issue, with its 2005 U.S.-DPRK discussions cited by officials and experts as the breakthrough which led to the September 19 joint statement of the Six-Party Talks.
“I am absolutely thrilled to join the FAPS team and to lead its meaningful efforts to reduce misperception and miscalculation between the U.S. and our partners in the Asia Pacific,” said Ms. Thornton. “While many challenges remain to regional peace and security, maintaining frank and productive dialogue is our greatest opportunity to advance common interests and reduce the potential for catastrophic conflict. I look forward to building on the success of Professor Zagoria’s work and to expanding the scope of our dialogues to include areas of emerging U.S. national interests.”
Until July 2018, Thornton was Acting Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs at the U.S. Department of State and led East Asia policy making amid crises with North Korea, escalating trade tensions with China, and a fast-changing international environment. In previous State Department roles, she worked on China and Korea policy and served in leadership positions at U.S. embassies in Central Asia, Russia, the Caucasus and China. Thornton received her MA in International Relations from Johns Hopkins SAIS and her BA from Bowdoin College in Economics and Russian. She serves on several non-profit boards and speaks Mandarin and Russian.
Donald Zagoria will continue to be a member of the NCAFP’s Board of Trustees and a trusted advisor to the FAPS program. Since 1996, Professor Zagoria grew FAPS from a shuttle diplomacy trip between Taipei and Beijing into a regular, grant-funded project that organizes several high-level annual conferences, an annual high-level trip to Asia, and periodic edited volumes on security issues in the region. The FAPS focus on policy recommendations and candid discussions has been lauded by U.S. officials and former officials as a useful and important resource for policy makers.