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The limits of defense and security cooperation in Southeast Asia.


Interest in regional security arrangements is burgeoning in the Asia-Pacific. Yet the disappearance of antagonistic blocs in the Cold War's wake is seen as a mixed blessing throughout the region. On the positive side, conditions for a classical security dilemma arms race are minimal. Since no countries view their neighbors as formal opponents - with the exception of China-Taiwan and the two Koreas - there is little impetus for large scale competitive military acquisitions. The negative side weighs in, however, with the very fluidity of this new situation in which even friendly neighbors may arm with each other in mind because of territorial disputes, concern for regional military balances, and prestige.

Because the economic costs of Asia-Pacific military buildups over the past decade have been offset by rising national economies, concerns about the financial burdens of military modernization have been restrained. Moreover, most Southeast Asian actors view their military modernization programs within the context of overall economic advancement. That is, modern countries should have up-to-date armed forces. And given the requirements of all Southeast Asian states to shift from controlling internal insurgency to the protection of land and maritime boundaries - extended by the 200 nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) of the 1982 Law of the Sea - it is hardly surprising that regional interest in arms control has been so low. Until these states develop a capacity to monitor and protect their extended security zones, arms limitations are, at best, premature.

Nevertheless, discussions about cooperative security either as an alternative or supplement to national defense are ubiquitous (Simon, 1995; Evans, 1994). They grow from the belief that there should be a less costly and more stabilizing option superior to exclusive dependence on single nation military buildups. Some form of cooperative security, it is hoped, would last longer than transitory balances of power. For Southeast Asia, these speculations center on ASEAN and its prospects for greater security/defense collaboration.

Generally, when ASEAN is taken as a base for security cooperation, two models are proposed: collective defense and a concert arrangement (Job, 1994a). Collective defense is premised on a commitment by all members to an arrangement to come to a partner's aid if it is threatened or attacked by an outsider. Its success depends on a deep multilateral commitment among pact members comparable, say, to NATO. A concert arrangement is more inward looking than collective defense. It commits its members to norms of diffuse reciprocity whereby a sense of community is formed. This community is based on the belief that members will not threaten one another now or in the future; that they accept the status quo as conducive to their own security; and that they agree not to attack each other and to come to members' defense if they are attacked. With its Treaty of Amity and Cooperation, ASEAN fulfills the "diffuse reciprocity" and "abnegation or threat" criteria. However, membership in the Association does not entail a collective defense provision. One can, nevertheless, still regard ASEAN as a security community if by that we mean that force is ruled out as a way of settling disputes among its members.

Although the ASEAN states have managed to refocus their security dilemmas away from each other (in Thailand's case a considerable accomplishment vis-avis Vietnam), they do not agree on either the existence or identity of an external threat. Therefore, there is no consensus on the need or utility of a defense community. ASEAN is, therefore, an incomplete or partial security mechanism. In place are techniques for resolving disputes within the Association but no agreement for coping with threats by outsiders. Consequently, defense pacts with major powers persist, ranging from the Five Power Defense Arrangement among Malaysia, Singapore, Great Britain, Australia, and New Zealand to bilateral agreements linking the United States to Thailand and the Philippines. As we shall see, the actual worth of these arrangements in a crisis is problematic. Nevertheless, they seem to assure that the more powerful members must at least consider a response if their weaker partners are attacked. Moreover, regular military exercises by the United States and Australia with their Southeast Asian partners have led to a degree of interoperability among these armed forces and deployment facilities in host countries which are regularly available to their external partners. These preparations should cause any potential aggressor to contemplate the possibility of major power intervention on behalf of a local partner if that aggressor initiates hostilities. The mere possibility of intervention, then, provides some degree of deterrence that presumably would not exist in the absence of security ties (Job, 1994b: 21).

Alternatively, small states in a multilateral security arrangement may deal with a potential outside adversary by inviting it to adhere to the norms of the community. This was ASEAN's strategy toward Vietnam when it invited the Association's former adversary to become a member. China, too, is being urged to abide by ASEAN's Treaty of Amity and Cooperation which precludes the use of force as a method of conflict resolution. (See the debate on institutional norms in Keohane and Martin, 1995; and Kupchan and Kupchan, 1995.)

Assesssing the Situation

The prospect of ASEAN evolving into a defense community faces numerous obstacles. First of all, neither ASEAN nor the Regional Forum it founded are alliances. Neither group engages in formal threat assessment, though both are concerned with regional stability; and on occasion, ASEAN has attempted to manage international crises, specifically Vietnam's decade-long occupation of Cambodia. If ASEAN's behavior in that situation could be characterized as an alliance, then it was strictly a diplomatic alliance within the United Nations and by no means a military alliance with battle plans to eject forcefully Hanoi's army from its neighbor's territory. Indeed, ASEAN's focus has been more on the economic than on the military components of regional stability. This emphasis on economic growth and regional international trade fits well with the view that ASEAN's success depends on national and regional resilience - originally an Indonesian concept based on the belief that national prosperities facilitate regional order. When it became apparent in the early 1990s that Southeast Asia's economic growth was increasingly linked to Northeast Asia, the path was laid for the creation of a Regional Forum comprising all of East Asia.

Nevertheless, it should also be noted that ASEAN was not founded to promote democracy. ASEAN's touchstone has been its ability to facilitate cordial relations among states with differing domestic regimes. Vietnam is communist; Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore are in varying degrees authoritarian-pluralist; Brunei is an absolute monarchy; while the Philippines and Thailand are currently liberal democracies. ASEAN has, in fact, the widest range of regime types in any regional political organization. Hence, its emphasis on consensus as the basis for decision making. A formal voting procedure would not only lead to stalemate but probably also to animosity because national political systems are so different. Discussion, bargaining, and compromise, by contrast, permit each state to save face and extend and receive concessions without confrontation.

When ASEAN grapples with an issue on which consensus is difficult to achieve, the Association normally postpones decision. This almost happened with Myanmar's admission. Because the Philippines and Thailand expressed reservations about Rangoon's (Yangon's) military junta and its suppression of Burma's political parties, Myanmar's membership came close to postponement. For ASEAN, the key is to sustain consensus, especially when it comes to membership (Asiaweek, 18 October 1996). As a rule, troublesome, controversial concerns are more frequently avoided than resolved. Burma's ultimate accession to ASEAN was accepted in 1997, however, for geopolitical reasons. Over the past decade, Beijing has established a close political and military relationship with the Yangon regime. ASEAN leaders agree that Burma's membership in the Association will limit China's penetration and firmly reposition Burma in Southeast Asia. Nevertheless, admitting Burma, when repression is increasing, may tarnish ASEAN's international reputation.

The Arming of Southeast Asia

A defense community requires an array of armaments. Though acquired by national armed forces, they should be sufficiently compatible to undertake collaborative exercises and actions. Yet, the ASEAN states are building naval and air components less for collaborative purposes than to fence off ocean spaces to extend individual maritime jurisdictions brought about by 200 nm EEZs and 12-mile territorial seas. These buildups are not "threat-based," rather they are "uncertainty-based," a result of increased regional multipolarity (Mak, 1995: 304).

To date, security cooperation in ASEAN has been confined primarily to bilateral exercises and multilateral exchanges of information. The Association has not been outer-directed. Its primary concerns are devoted to coping with intra-ASEAN tensions. Moreover, Thailand, Malaysia, and Vietnam's somewhat mainland-oriented security contrasts with the rest of ASEAN's maritime orientations. None of its members's air and naval modernization is designed to project force beyond Southeast Asia. ASEAN military capacity is, therefore, neither a threat to nor a support for Northeast Asian states. Rather, as the ASEAN states unanimously insisted at the 1992 Manila Conference, only the United States has the capacity and political profile to play the role of benign regional balancer vis-a-vis China, the only potential external challenge.

Because the only threats ASEAN armed forces can credibly meet are local, their doctrines address contingencies with neighbors over land and sea borders, fisheries, and maritime zones. Yet, because these contingencies focus on fellow ASEAN members, they are not openly publicized; and ASEAN armed forces are loath to produce ingenuous defense White Papers.

To a considerable extent, ASEAN states are imitative in their acquisitions. They all need surveillance, warning, and intelligence capabilities for their maritime approaches and an ability to defend these approaches unaided. Hence, the current emphasis on maritime strike capabilities and rapid reaction forces (Sukhumband, 1994: 249; and Selin, 1994a: 41). Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and Singapore are adding surface combatants which range from ocean-going patrol vessels through destroyers and frigates and up to a light aircraft carrier for Thailand. In the course of this decade, the ASEAN states also plan to procure some 300 combat aircraft, several hundred helicopters, transport aircraft for rapid deployment forces, and reconnaissance planes (Wattanayagorn, 1995: 498).

Malaysia: Kuala Lumpur is buying 20 Mig-29s from Russia, FA-18 fighters from the United States, and four submarines plus 24 Hawk fighters from Britain. The submarines are specifically tasked with giving Malaysia a technological advantage vis-a-vis China in any contest over the Spratlys in the South China Sea (Selin, 1994a: 21 and 43-44; Yuan, 1995: 77). Nevertheless, the country's maritime patrol capabilities are stretched because of the need to watch both the east and west coasts of the Malacca Straits and the country's EEZ. Australian Air Force P-3Cs help with long-range surveillance; and the F/A-18s and Mig-29s have sufficient range for operations over the South China Sea. With a British upgrade of its frigates, Malaysia is on the way to acquiring a significant Southeast Asian navy (Kawomura, 1996: 4).

Thailand: The 1990s have seen Thailand embark on the largest arms buildup in its history despite the admission of Vietnam into ASEAN and the end of the Cambodian war. The Thai armed forces are adding 400 tanks, a helicopter/VTOL carrier, perhaps two submarines, approximately six frigates, and four squadrons of combat aircraft centered on the F-16 (Sukhumband, 1994: 250). Although Thailand is not a Spratly claimant, its offshore natural gas fields and its extensive fishing interests require maritime protection. Operations by the Thai fishing fleet, which operate beyond over fished Thai territorial waters in overlapping EEZs, regularly cause tensions with Vietnam, Malaysia, and Indonesia.

Indonesia: In addition to acquiring and upgrading 39 ships of the former East German navy, Indonesia will probably buy nine more F-16s to add to its current inventory of 11. Its airbase on the Natuna islands permits coverage of the southern entrance to the Malacca Straits as well as the gas fields north of the Natunas - waters China might also claim as part of its South China Sea territory. Indonesia and Malaysia held large scale joint war games off Kalimantan in August 1996 near the Natunas; subsequently, an even larger Indonesian combined arms exercise, involving about 20,000 personnel took place in the Natunas which defense analysts described as a signal to China (Straits Times, 6 and 21 September 1996).

Singapore: Singapore has increased its air surveillance capability with the purchase of four KC-135 tankers from the U.S. Air Force. This gives the island state nine in-air refueling craft, making Singapore the strongest air combat force in the region since its 28 F-16s and 75 upgraded Skyhawks are all configured for mid-air refueling (Jane's Defense Weekly, 18 September 1996: 13).

Vietnam: ASEAN's former adversary and newest member has halved its armed forces since 1988, downsizing to 500,000. Its defenses are described by Jane's Defense Weekly as "woeful," though a gradual rebuilding of the air force and navy are beginning. Russia is supplying two new missile boats and six SU-27 fighters. The remainder of its forces are antiquated and will gradually be phased out as new equipment is acquired. Vietnamese officials privately concede that their eagerness to join ASEAN and the Regional Forum had to do with security vis-a-vis its northern neighbor (Jane's Defense Weekly, 4 September 1996: 17).

The preceding brief review of major ASEAN states' military readiness suggests that until now at least, there is little interest in arms control as a confidence-building measure (CBM). Instead, defense policy is dominated by a reliance on unilateral defense combined with some limited joint exercises to demonstrate benign intentions toward neighbors. There is little interest in developing a multinational military capability.

China as the Putative "External Threat"

The latest world concern about China's growing military might and ability to project power centers on the prospect of acquiring the 35-year old French carrier, Clemenceau. From Southeast Asia's perspective, anxiety is generated because of the power projection inherent in a carrier capable of carrying fixed-wing combat aircraft. If refurbished, it could carry up to 30 combat aircraft and deploy for another 20 years, though its age would require a high level of maintenance. Nor does an aircraft carrier operate by itself; it would have to be protected by a task force of other surface vessels and submarines - a combination China is unlikely to assemble for at least a decade (Chanda, 1996: 20).

Even without an aircraft carrier, though, the PLA Navy is steadily building new destroyers, frigates, supply ships, and landing vessels. It has also purchased Kilo-class submarines from Russia. China's lack of antisubmarine and antiaircraft protection renders these ships vulnerable to U.S. and Japanese forces, but not yet to those of the ASEAN states with whom the PRC contests portions of the South China Sea. Chinese naval strategists claim that for the past 15 years the PLA Navy has been developing a capability to deploy in the South China Sea down to the Straits of Malacca. Shannon Selin argues that once mid-air refueling for the PLA Air Force SU-27s, Mig-29s and Mig-31s is perfected by 2005, China will have "friendly air cover anywhere in Eastern Asia" (Selin, 1994a: 14-15).

Although ASEAN states' air power more than matches the PLA at the present time - Malaysia has almost as many modern combat aircraft as China - that balance is bound to shift over time in Beijing's favor. While the ASEAN states are reaching the limits of their modernization, China should be able to re-equip its whole air force in the next ten years, given its current rate of economic growth. There are credible reports that China is negotiating the purchase of at least an additional 52 SU-27s and is interested in a co-production arrangement for that aircraft as well as the Mig-31 (Yuan, 1995: 72-73). There are a number of warning signs that foreshadow a growing military imbalance in China's favor which include the continued acquisition of destroyers and frigates; an expanded inventory of SU-27s, particularly if configured for carrier operation; and evidence of mid-air refueling operations.

There is something of a paradox in arms buildups directed at enforcing South China Sea sovereignty claims. None of the claimants has a strong legal case with respect to the Spratlys. The most important principle is "continuous and effective control, administration, and governance." Nor would the tiny outcrops of rocks seem to qualify under the Law of the Sea for 200 nm EEZs. None of the islets has ever sustained a permanent population. Consequently, no claimant is eager to place the dispute before the World Court (Segal, 1996: 116-117).

Nevertheless, China has engaged in provocative actions in the South China Sea. While calling for the peaceful settlement of the Spratlys dispute, insisting that joint development is possible, and even negotiating separate codes of conduct with Vietnam and the Philippines, China occupies islets and reefs at both ends of the archipelago and continues to build permanent facilities and defensive gun emplacements on them. Beijing's Spratly expansion clearly demonstrated that it was willing to risk good relations with ASEAN in order to stake its South China Sea claims more firmly. In other words, nationalism - or irredentism - takes precedence over good relations with one's neighborhood. Moreover, PRC leaders may well calculate that China's political support for some ASEAN states' resistance to U.S. human rights pressure and for Malaysia's East Asian Economic Caucus (EAEC) - which would exclude North America, Australia, and New Zealand from regional deliberations - offset any long term strategic threat China presents to Southeast Asia.

The latest Southeast Asian manifestation of concern about China's long-term plans emanates from Indonesia. In December 1995, Jakarta deviated from its long-standing nonalignment and signed a defense cooperation agreement with Australia. For both signatories, this accord could be seen as at least a partial rejection of the EAEC premise that only Asians should be involved in regional deliberations (Segal, 1996: 127). Subsequently, one of Indonesia's leading strategic thinkers and Vice Governor of the Institute of National Defense, Juwono Sudarsono, stated to a group of Indonesian policymakers that Southeast Asia may have to prepare for "a possible military confrontation with China" over South China Sea resources (Sukma, 1996: 28). Juwono expressed particular concern over the PRC's lack of transparency in defense doctrine and acquisitions as well as its new baseline claims from the Paracel islands rather than the mainland (discussed below).

In September 1996, Indonesia held its most extensive war games ever on and around Natuna island with more than 19,000 forces, 50 warships, and 40 combat aircraft. Foreign military attaches observed that the target of these maneuvers "undeniably" was China. And, indeed, a Chinese spokesman stated that the exercises and an earlier war game between Indonesia and Malaysia could only "complicate" the situation in the South China Sea (McBeth, 1996: 17; Voice of America, 1996).

Jakarta is concerned that Beijing's South China Sea claims could extend south of the Spratlys into the waters around the Natuna islands where Indonesia and the Exxon Corporation have exploration and development plans for a giant undersea gas field (Financial Times, 25 June 1996; and in FBIS, Daily Report - East Asia, 25 June 1996: 80-81). All ASEAN states are seeking clarification from China with respect to a May 1996 announcement that it was drawing baselines from the Paracel islands, thus treating them as an archipelago for purposes of a 200 nm EEZ.(2) The ASEAN states have objected to this new claim for two reasons: first, that only island-chain countries under the Law of the Sea can make EEZ claims on archipelagic principles; and second, if China can base this claim on the Paracels, it might extend the logic to the Spratlys, reinforcing its argument that most of the South China Sea constitutes either territorial waters or the PRC's EEZ. Singapore's Senior Minister Lee Kwan Yew warned that unless this issue is resolved "in a sensitive way, the present friendly relations between ASEAN and China could revert to the awkward relations of the decades when China supported guerrilla insurgencies in many ASEAN countries" (Kwan, 1996; Pura, 29 July 1996; Kompas (Jakarta), 22 July 1996, in FBIS, Daily Report - East Asia, 22 July 1996: 19-20). ASEAN formally raised the maritime borders issue at the annual July ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) but, to date, has not received a satisfactory explanation.

The Limits of Security Multilateralism

As a political-consultative organization, ASEAN is concerned with negotiation, not partisan dispute involvement. Because threat perceptions and foreign policies among its members still differ greatly, it is improbable that ASEAN would endorse any member's claim to territory. It will, by contrast, focus its efforts on facilitating dialogue and peaceful settlement. Thus, at the 29th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting in Jakarta (July 1996), the foreign ministers endorsed the idea of a regional code of conduct for the South China Sea which would commit all claimants to the non-use of force (Pfening, 1996: 12). While security cooperation regularly proceeds on a bilateral basis among all ASEAN states and there is even some trilateral cooperation involving anti-piracy actions in the Malacca Straits by Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore, no ASEAN-wide defense plans exist. Although there may be an incipient understanding that China's South China Sea aspirations are the region's only significant external challenge, there is an equal realization that ASEAN cannot function as an alliance to confront the PRC. Indeed, unresolved border conflicts with each other serve to maintain a level of suspicion within ASEAN itself, explaining the reticence of military establishments to engage in greater information transparency. For example, only four of the ASEAN nine have published defense white papers (Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, and the Philippines) (Snitwongse, 1995: 526-527; Quezon City Radio Filipinas, 25 June 1996, in FBIS, Daily Report - East Asia, 27 June 1997: 35).

Over the next few years, ASEAN's political-security consensus problems may well be exacerbated as the Association expands its membership to ten. Vietnam joined in 1995; Burma and Laos followed in 1997; and Cambodia quite possibly in 1998 if reasonably fair elections are held in July. This relatively rapid expansion could erode the norms of mutual accommodation and solidarity built up over three decades. Moreover, an enlarged ASEAN with consensus decisional norms will inevitably move more slowly. As Singapore's Tommy Koh pointed out, ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) implementation will slow down; and a two-tier ASEAN could evolve - a rich ASEAN and a poor ASEAN. Indeed, in September 1996, because of Vietnam's reticence, AFTA was unable to introduce a dispute settlement mechanism (Straits Times, 19 September 1996; Voice of America, 1996).

Even more challenging to ASEAN consensus than the assimilation of a communist Vietnam will be Burma, a pariah state whose military leadership continues to be an embarrassment to the Association as well as a cause for dissension. In varying degrees, the Philippines, Thailand, and Singapore have all expressed reservations about the suitability of Myanmar's membership. Although ASEAN is characterized by different levels of political openness and freedom, none matches the level of repression in Burma. Yet, the ASEAN norm of noninterference in its members internal affairs may preclude the Association's mediation between Burma's ruling junta and the country's democratic opposition (Chongkittawon, 1996). In sum, ASEAN's expansion, if anything, renders the prospect of a defense arrangement even more improbable.

Of course, the alternative has been the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) (Simon, 1996). Created in 1994 as an outgrowth of the annual ASEAN Post-Ministerial meeting with global dialogue partners, the ARF is the only regional security framework in the world in which all great powers are represented. Curiously, and in contrast to what the neorealists tell us, these same great powers are quite content to leave ARF leadership and agenda-setting to the less powerful developing states of ASEAN (Acharya, 1995).

If ASEAN has little prospect of becoming a defense community, its Regional Forum's chances are even more remote. In addition to the vast heterogeneity of its membership, as in ASEAN, the purpose of the ARF is to build security within the Forum rather than against others. The ASEAN states see the Forum as a larger version of their own Association, dedicated to reassurance, not deterrence; and confidence-building rather than confrontation.

ARF's first meeting in July 1994 endorsed ASEAN's Treaty of Amity and Cooperation as a code of conduct for its members. Its founders hoped that in time, its activities could move from confidence-building to preventive diplomacy in the Asia-Pacific, though that last goal has not yet been addressed in its deliberations (Acharya, 1995; Simon, 1996). Currently, ARF meetings contribute to regional security in three ways: by promoting transparency in strategic intent and the encouragement of a regional arms register; by building trust through the exchange of military personnel, cross-training, and explanations of deployments; and by developing habits of cooperation. Track II non-governmental advisory groups to the ARF found in the Council on Security Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific (CSCAP) have encouraged ARF to address an even more ambitious agenda, including enhanced transparency in military activities, exchange of defense white papers, allowing observers at military exercises, and the establishment of a regional peacekeeping center.

As in the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, the ARF has divided along the lines of developed versus less developed countries. ASEAN and China wish to keep discussions very general to avoid disagreements, while the Western members and Japan lobby for the early implementation of CBMs. Although the ARF has created working groups on CBMs (Japan and Indonesia), peacekeeping (Canada and Malaysia), and maritime search and rescue (the United States and Singapore), it remains to be seen whether their extensive recommendations to the July 1996 ARF meeting will be implemented (Chongkittawon, 1996). Even China in collaboration with the Philippines have formed an intersessional group on CBMs which reported to the 1997 ARF, though this may well be a political tactic on Beijing's part to soften the effects of the PLA Navy's continued presence on Mischief Reef.

For some, the ARF is not inclusive enough. Neither Taiwan - a Spratly claimant - nor North Korea are members. For others, the Forum is too inclusive. That is, the agenda of a comprehensive East Asian body is being set almost exclusively by its Southeast Asian members. As a result, Northeast Asian issues such as nuclear weapons on the Korean peninsula are not addressed.

Interestingly, parallel to the motivation behind ASEAN's own creation in 1967, to incorporate Indonesia in a larger, benign, regional framework, a major unstated purpose of the ARF is the engagement of China. From ARF's perspective, the hope is to commit the PRC to the principle of peaceful settlement of territorial disputes as well as strategic transparency. While giving lipservice to ARF goals, China remains wary of its potential to "gang up" against Beijing and has opposed such ASEAN, ARF, or CSCAP initiatives of sending observers at PLA exercises, establishing a regional security studies center, and exchanging defense white papers. (China's 1995 White Paper was merely a reiteration of its well known propaganda position that its forces were entirely defensive and that the PLA presented no threat to its neighbors. The Paper did not discuss strategy, order of battle, or arms acquisitions plans.)

China is not alone in its opposition to some ASEAN initiatives. On the nuclear weapons free zone proposal for Southeast Asia, the PRC is joined by the United States and the other four declared nuclear powers. They are concerned about the scope of the nuclear free zone since it would also include 200 nm EEZs of ten Southeast Asian countries. This is of particular concern to Beijing since the proposal's acceptance would subsequently be used to contest China's own sovereignty claims (Bangkok Post, 16 October 1996).

ASEAN efforts to extend the Association's decision-making style to the ARF may also be heading for difficulties (Narine, 1996). The "ASEAN way" is more conflict avoidance or postponement than resolution. Like the physicians code, ASEAN's first principle is "do no harm." Difficult issues within ASEAN are compartmentalized or postponed so that they do not interfere with other areas of cooperation. The ARF is a more broad-gauged body, however. If it does not grapple with contentious issues directly, ARF risks loss of credibility with non-ASEAN member states. Larger states may still remain members, but they will minimize or ignore its actions. Thus, the ARF will probably not be able to deal with the South China Sea conflicts, Korea's future, or the development of power projection capabilities by various regional members. The ASEAN way works for small and medium powers which wish to combine negotiations as a way of maintaining peace with reliance on the presence of an external balancer (the United States, perhaps increasingly accompanied by Japan). Moreover, an ARF which confines itself to the discussion of regional problems rather than their resolution is probably the only kind of forum acceptable to Beijing.


Southeast Asian defense cooperation must of necessity take place in the context of continental EEZs, territorial seas, and archipelagic waters (Selin, 1994b: 14-16). These states' primary concerns have to do, therefore, with sovereign rights more than freedom of the seas. This renders maritime cooperation very difficult except for very specific purposes, viz., anti-piracy operations in the Malacca Straits. With so many contested maritime jurisdictions, the question of whose laws apply is a significant obstacle to cooperation. Even anti-piracy arrangements among Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore stop short of boarding vessels in others' territorial waters (Selin, 1994b: 15). Indeed, these contested maritime zones account for much of the region's air and naval arming. Thus, they seem to be directed more toward balancing neighbors than any outside challenge (China).

Even East Asian regional institutions such as ASEAN, APEC, and the ARF, as Tim Huxley argues, are less "solid regional architecture" than "tentative confidence-building groups." While ASEAN and APEC may have some limited decision making authority, the ARF clearly has none (Huxley, 1996). The "talk shop" character of ARF reinforces the continued importance, then, of both self-help military buildups and the maintenance of ties with outside powers such as the United States. New large scale Australia-U.S. combined forces exercises in March 1997 off the Queensland coast is the latest manifestation of the region's desire to keep an American presence close by, yet over the horizon. Thus, partial reliance on a benign outsider remains preferable to any attempt at creating a regional defense alliance among states which have unresolved territorial claims on one another. Moreover, the country with which ASEAN is most concerned - China - would see such a framework as directed against Beijing, thus undercutting ASEAN's constructive engagement strategy.

Nevertheless, at the Track II level in CSCAP, where countries are represented by unofficial delegations, a more ambitious agenda exists. In early November 1996, an ARF-sponsored Track II gathering addressed the sensitive topic of preventive diplomacy, that is, the process of identifying disputes between states before they erupt into full-blown conflicts. Preventive diplomacy is aimed at preventing disputes from escalating to hostilities. Insofar as ARF has been focusing on CBMs, the logical follow on would be studies on how to proceed to preventive diplomacy.

One possible guideline is the deployment of a peaceful settlements procedure modeled on the 1992 ASEAN Declaration on the South China Sea, which urges all claimants to maintain the status quo and search for ways of sharing resources while avoiding confrontation. Another guideline might be for all ARF members to share national perceptions of potential security problems through the creation of a Forum Information and Research Center. These suggestions are all premised on a degree of trust, however, that may not yet exist across the Asia-Pacific, particularly when some ASEAN members and China are still highly suspicious of outside interference in "internal affairs." If preventive diplomacy is perceived to be an effort to legitimize international scrutiny of domestic politics, it will not succeed (Cossa and Tay, 1996).


1 An earlier version of this paper was presented to the ASEAN Workshop of the Center For the Study of Australia-Asia Relations, Griffith University, Queensland, 9-11 December 1996.

2 Under the UN Law of the Sea, only midocean archipelagic states - and not a continental country such as China - are permitted to draw baselines connecting the outermost points of outlying islands and from these points project territorial seas and economic zones. Once again, China's unilateral actions are troubling ASEAN.



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Sheldon Simon is Professor of Political Science at Arizona State University. He has authored The Asian States and Regional Security (1982), coauthored Southeast Asian Security in the New Millenium (1996); and Security, Democracy, and Economic Liberalization: Competing Priorities in U.S. Asia Policy (1996), and edited East Asian Security in the Post-Cold War Era (1993).
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Title Annotation:Zones of Amity, Zones of Enmity: The Prospects for Economic and Military Security in Asia
Author:Simon, Sheldon
Publication:Journal of Asian and African Studies
Date:Feb 1, 1998
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