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Panel 11. Southeast Asia and the Multilateralisation of Security

Chair: Bruno Hellendorff (Group for Research and Information on Peace and Security & Université Catholique de Louvain)

Although Southeast Asia is home to various – often conflicting – types of political, economic and social organization, it has embarked, since the end of WWII, on a programme of inter-state collaboration that became most visible with the creation, then the enlargement, of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Initially formed in response to common internal and external threats, ASEAN gradually emerged as a vector of peace in a region in flux. It has paved the way for a new “Asian multilateralism”, one that sees (sub-)regional organizations proliferate and increasingly turn into a new venue of geopolitical competition. Today, it has taken on a new dimension with the implementation of its charter, which enmeshes political, economic and socio-cultural considerations in its call for the building of a regional community by 2015. Today, ASEAN faces numerous challenges, as an institution, as an association of countries, and as a “modus vivendi” between its members. This panel seeks to identify policy options for regional states to consolidate previous achievements, and further harness the potential of existing institutional settings to address common security issues, such as transnational terrorism and stability in the South China Sea.

Paper 1: Can the ASEAN Way and the ASEAN Security Community handle new security challenges in the region ?

Sophie Boisseau du Rocher (Asia Centre, Paris)

The ASEAN way, which favors informal mechanisms and deliberative arrangements, has long been praised for its contribution to Southeast Asia’s security and the establishment of a much vaunted “security community” in a Deutschian perspective. At its core, this ASEAN way lies on principles such as non-use of force, regional autonomy and non-interference. Even if it has evolved with the emergence of new security parameters, this code of conduct has succeeded to preserve its specific character. In 2004, the 10 ASEAN members have adopted the Vientiane Action Programme (VAP) which included the ASEAN Security Plan of Action for establishing an ASEAN Security Community. This Community should be established by 2015. As the deadline comes closer, many questions arise that may pressure in new ways and to a new extent the pragmatic ASEAN status quo. Significant security shifts alter the strategic Southeast Asian landscape: obviously the new Chinese assertiveness (which challenges ASEAN solidarity), the United States “pivot” strategy, India and Japan’s emerging military offers, a constant military build-up, the growing salience of non-traditional security issues as well as intra-ASEAN conflicts, mistrust and suspicion as illustrated by the recent tensions around the South China Sea. What clearly appears is the rising gap between ASEAN security aspirations as expressed in the institutional documents, declarations and norms, and the new potential challenging ASEAN and its member-States on the ground. Decisive questions need to be addressed: (i) the coherence of ASEAN’s ambitions with the rising complexity of its strategic environment, (ii) the Association’s capacity to resist an external rivalry and (iii) its own resilience as a security community.

Paper 2: The security interests of the EU in East Asia

Michael Reiterer (European External Action Service & University of Innsbruck)

The Asia Pacific region has become central to world-wide prosperity. The world’s largest population buys almost a quarter of EU exports; it is among the fastest growing export markets and is home to the fastest growing economies. In addition to the strategic dimension of economic wellbeing and financial stability, the world has a significant interest in Asian regional security and stability. Almost 50% of world shipping by tonnage transits the South China Sea.  The potential for tensions on the Korean Peninsula or across the Taiwan Strait to hurt the EU’s interests are real as demonstrated the effects of the 2010 earthquake in Taiwan which impacted negatively on the world wide supply chains especially in the IT sector. Similarly production cuts because of the 2011 tsunami and the Fukushima incident impacted negatively on domestic and international production networks. Another example is the limiting the export of rare earth by China lead to joint action by the EU, Japan and the US in the WTO. China and Japan contribute together with South Korea to the Asian economic powerhouse. The Asian Development Bank confirms this view and expects for the whole of Asia, “nearly doubling its share of global gross domestic production (GDP) to 52 percent by 2050, … [thereby Asia] would regain the dominant economic position it held some 300 years ago, before the industrial revolution.”

Paper 3: US – China – ASEAN: Multilateralism in name of Realpolitik?

Tanguy Struye de Swielande (Université Catholique de Louvain)

The Asia-Pacific region currently forms the epicenter of world affairs and incorporates the majority of great powers (emerging and confirmed), in particular the United States and China. In this context  the Asian Rimland (ASEAN) has become the center of attention. It is there that the real struggle between Beijing and Washington for dominance in the region will take place. ASEAN nations belong to a cat­egory of states capable of permuting from one sphere of influence to another. ASEAN nations form a buffer zone defined by the author David Mathisen as “small independent zones lying between two larger, usually rival states (or bloc of states).” The paper will explain how China and the US are playing the card of multilateralism proposed by ASEAN to defend their national interest. Because the ASEAN States are in a position similar to the depiction of Afghanistan by the Afghani leader Amir Abdur Rahman of “a swan on a lake, with bears on one shore and wolves on the opposite shore, ready to snatch it up should she swim too close.”

Paper 4: Pursuing self-interest through multilateral channels: Indonesia’s “ASEAN strategy”

Bruno Hellendorff (Group for Research and Information on Peace and Security & Université Catholique de Louvain)

As a developing nation, Indonesia is more and more acutely confronted to difficulties related to its self-characterization in a changing, gradually multipolar world. It is increasingly hard for Jakarta to strike the right balance between the sometimes conflicting expectations of its different international partners and its own developmental aspirations. In this context, multilateralism and constructive balancing grew out to be the key rationales of Jakarta in the tackling of its regional and global challenges, as acknowledged by President Yudhoyono’s “Thousands friends, zero enemy” policy. Yet, it remains to be seen whether this option is sustainable or not: growingly asserting itself as a “responsible power” in Southeast Asia, Indonesia faces the dire need to develop its institutional and organizational capacities as well as its “soft” and “hard” power so as to be able to reach, keep and reinforce a status of international go-between and mediator. Such developments are also needed to address the security challenges that confront the country, and the region altogether.This paper aims to assess and disaggregate the drivers, challenges and opportunities of Indonesia’s investing in ASEAN for the promotion of its national interests, in the field of security.