The roster of speakers for February’s 24th Camden Conference is now complete — and it is as diverse and multifaceted as “The Challenges of Asia,” the topic of the 2011 conference. Speakers run the gamut from an expert on security issues in the Indian Ocean, to a former negotiator with North Korea. Presentations will address cultural and social dimensions of Asia’s 21st century rise, as well as the political, economic, and strategic stresses the continent faces.

In addition to the previously announced keynote address by China expert and former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Charles Freeman, and another year of engaging interaction with both speakers and audience by moderator, Nicolas Burns, the conference will feature other big draws.

Insights into the origin and potential outcomes of recently heightened tensions between North and South Korea will come from Charles Pritchard, president of the Korea Economic Institute, and former ambassador and special envoy for negotiations with North Korea under President George W. Bush. Previously, he served as special assistant for national security affairs and senior director for Asian affairs to President Bill Clinton.

Robert Kaplan, best-selling author and Atlantic magazine journalist will be sharing insights gained while researching his new book, “Monsoon” on the future of the Indian Ocean region and its importance for energy, national security, and global primacy in the 21st century. Kaplan has been named one of the four “most widely read” authors on the post-Cold War era by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman. Insight into China’s current and historic perspective on the world beyond its borders will come from Lanxin Xiang, a professor at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, Switzerland. He is a contributing editor for the publication Survival at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) in London, and Dushu in Beijing.

Following up on popular presentations on cultural and social topics at last February’s conference will be presentations on life in Asia by journalist Hannah Beech, Southeast Asia Bureau Chief for Time magazine; and economist Pranab Bardhan of the University of California Berkeley. In his recent book “Awakening Giants, Feet of Clay: Assessing the Economic rise of China and India,” Bardhan challenges widely accepted beliefs about the economies of China and India.

Environmental issues, in which China, India, and other Asian countries are increasingly central players, will take a prominent place at the conference. Joanna Lewis, assistant professor of science, technology and international affairs at Georgetown University and an international advisor to the Energy Foundation’s China Sustainable Energy Program in Beijing, will bring her experience to the topic. She spent a year as visiting scholar at the Institute of Energy, Environment, and Economy in Beijing, and has worked at the White House Council on Environmental Quality, the National Wildlife Federation, and the Environmental Defense Fund. Environmental issues, security and energy will figure prominently in the wealth of experience on Chinese-US relations that Banning Garrett, director of the Asia Program at the Atlantic Council, will bring to the conference.

Capping off the conference and focusing on another aspect of the topic, the response of the U.S. to the challenges of Asia, will be Thomas Pickering, former Under Secretary of State, who served as ambassador to the United Nations during the successful coalition-building effort that preceded the 1991 Gulf War. Pickering was ambassador to India, Russia, Israel, Jordan, Nigeria and El Salvador — more countries than any other U.S. ambassador in history. Pickering was declared “the best American ambassador I’ve dealt with” by Jordan’s King Hussein and “arguably the best-ever senior U.S. representative” to the UN by the New York Times. After his departure from the UN, Pickering took over as Ambassador to India, doubtless providing invaluable insights for his Camden Conference talk. He later was named Ambassador to Russia and then Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs by President Clinton. In this role, he handled the delicate task of explaining to the Chinese how NATO had come to mistakenly bomb their embassy in Belgrade.

The Camden Conference, “The Challenges of Asia,” takes place Feb. 18-20 at the Camden Opera House and satellite locations in Ellsworth at The Grand), Rockland at The Strand, and at the Hutchinson Center in Belfast. Tickets are on sale now. For more information, go to or phone 236-1034.