Expert talk

Security Cooperation in the Asia Pacific Region

The Academic Forum “Security Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific Region: Challenges and Prospects” aims at addressing traditional and non-traditional security threads and challenges to the Asia Pacific and region.

Details

1. RATIONALE

Peace and stability are prerequisites for Asia-Pacific regional integration. De facto integration of regional economies contributed to peace in the region. However many security problems still exist in the area. Countries pursue military buildup and nuclear weapons development. Disagreements over territorial issues are yet to be resolved. For regional integration to occur, the biggest question is whether or not cooperation and integration extend to the security realm.

There have been efforts to build a regional multilateral security institution like the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) but the region is still heavily dependent on the bilateral alliances with the United States.

In the Asia-Pacific region, there is a growing web of complex interdependence and shared interests that can provide the foundation and impetus for such a cooperative paradigm. There is already a strong degree of economic interdependence in terms of trade, commerce and resource flows. This will be further amplified as global trade continues to rise. There are also significant shared interests in preserving the security of, and freedom of access to the strategic sea lanes of the Asia-Pacific. These are after all vital arteries, through which the trade and commerce that underpin global economic growth flow. Shared interests also exist in other areas like counter-proliferation, supply chain security, disaster relief, and counter-terrorism.

One good example is the US-China relationship, arguably which has evolved into a relationship of complex interdependence. Cooperation and disagreements co-exist, as could certainly be seen over the past year. But more often than not, both sides do recognize the need to manage their disagreements, and engage cooperatively, given that each has a stake in the other’s well-being. The recently held US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue is a good example of this.

The regional security architecture in the Asia-Pacific already has a good mix of institutions of different configurations and formats – both formal and informal, which provide flexible opportunities for this new cooperative paradigm. The architecture is open and inclusive, allowing stakeholders, big or small, to “plug in and play”, to have the opportunity to have their “voice” heard, and to work together to resolve issues of concern.

Prior to the 1990s, very few channels for regional security dialogue existed in the Asia-Pacific. Several ill-fated efforts were undertaken to establish regional groupings which, over time, provided the basis for a more substantial Asia-Pacific security architecture. These included the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization—an eight member grouping established in 1955 that began to lose members and was finally dissolved in 1977—and both Maphilindo and the Association of Southeast Asia. Likewise, in Northeast Asia, the Asian and Pacific Council—a South Korean initiative established in 1966 and comprising nine member countries—struggled due to the diverging perceptions and interests of its membership, and finally collapsed in 1975. Flowing from this legacy was the more successful sub-regional ASEAN, founded in 1967 and expanded via several avenues, including a major security component—the ASEAN Regional Forum. But even ASEAN’s initial collaborative functions were essentially economic, political and cultural; and its latest manifestations—ASEAN-plus-three and the East Asia Summit (EAS)—focus more on these issues than on strategy or geopolitics.

As a consequence, bilateral (namely US-led) cooperation tended to be the primary mode of Asia-Pacific security collaboration throughout the Cold War period. This, of course, stands in stark contrast to the situation today. To be sure, America’s Asia-Pacific alliances remain an integral component of the region’s security architecture and—notwithstanding the process of ‘transformation’ which this system of alliances is undergoing to accommodate the dynamics of the post-11 September 2001 strategic environment—some of these relationships (namely the US–Japan and US–Australia alliances) have actually strengthened during the period since the end of the Cold War, contrary to the expectations of conventional theories of alliance politics.

Because the hierarchical aspects of this system are giving way to more fluid processes of intra-alliance consultations, however, new ‘minilateral’ mechanisms such as the US–Japan–South Korea Trilateral Coordination and Oversight Group and the US–Japan–Australia Trilateral Strategic Dialogue have been formed to address emerging security issues at both the regional and global levels. This ‘expansive bilateralism’ has been supplemented since the early 1990s by a startling growth in regional institutions, arrangements and structures. According to one recent estimate, over 100 such channels now exist at the official (Track 1) level, including such leading regional security institutions as the ARF, the SCO and the EAS which, despite its largely economic focus, still has the potential to emerge over time as an influential East Asian security mechanism. More ad hoc, but still substantial, multilateral initiatives have also been employed toward specific issues such as the Four-Power Talks and, later, the Six-Party Talks concerning security on the Korean peninsula.

The growth in institutions and dialogues at the unofficial (or Track 2) level has been even more profound, with in excess of 200 such channels now estimated to exist. These include the ASEAN Institutes for Strategic and International Studies, which was one of the few facilitators of regional security dialogue prior to the 1990s; the Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific (CSCAP), arguably the region’s premier second track institution and with whose development the SDSC has been intimately involved; the relatively new Network of East Asian Think Tanks (NEAT), which some analysts regard as a potential (Chinese-led) challenge to more established second track processes such as CSCAP; as well as the annual International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Shangri-la Dialogue, which takes place in Singapore and has essentially become a de facto gathering of regional defence ministers.

Yet, this startling growth in regional security cooperation has been neither steady nor straightforward. The volume of such institutions and activities plummeted in the immediate aftermath of the 1997–98 Asian financial crisis, for instance, and temporarily lost the attention of policymakers in the process. Still, there can be little disputing the fact that regional security cooperation has since recovered well and, moreover, that the general trend in such activity across the decade and a half since the beginning of the 1990s has been upward. So what explains this recent and, indeed, rather dramatic growth in regional security cooperation?

2. OBJECTIVES OF THE ACADEMIC FORUM

The objectives of the Academic Forum are:

•To identify the common and distinct security challenges experienced by nations in Asia Pacific Region

•To mobilize ideas and experiences, and recommendations and strategies for regional and global security and peace

•To identify possible collaborative mechanisms across the Pacific in dealing with common security challenges,

•To encourage the constructive interaction between the policy and scientific communities represented at the Forum,

•To stimulate a spirit of culture of peace

3. TOPICS OF THE ACADEMIC FORUM

There will be three main topics with respective themes to be discussed:

a) Traditional and Non-traditional Security Issues in the Asia Pacific Region

b) Review on Existing Security Architectures in the Asia-Pacific Region

c) Security Outlook and Defense Policy in the Asia-Pacific Region

4. PARTICIPANTS OF THE ACADEMIC FORUM

The Academic Forum on “Security Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific Region Challenges and Prospects” will bring together around 250-300 participants as following:

•Members of the National Assembly and the Senate of Cambodia,

•Members of the Royal Government of Cambodia,

•Representatives of the Royal Government ministries,

•Diplomatic corps in Cambodia,

•Delegates from provincial and municipal authorities,

•Students, national and international scholars,

•The nation's thinkers and policy-makers,

•Representatives of all political parties in Cambodia,

•National and international organizations/institutions and the private sector investing in the Kingdom of Cambodia,

•Representatives of Civil Society and Non-Governmental Organizations and other representatives of interested groups in

Cambodia.

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Venue

Cambodiana Hotel

Publication

Security Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific Region: Challenges and Prospects
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Contact

Denis Schrey

Denis Schrey bild

Head of the Multinational Development Policy Dialogue Brussels

denis.schrey@kas.de +32 2 66931 70 +32 2 66931 62