AN ESSAY ON
THE EXPANSION OF ASEAN: IMPLICATIONS FOR REGIONAL SECURITY
By Squadron Leader W. Poosit
The group as a whole w...
2
the nine nations in an expanded ASEAN only two can be considered liberal democracies,
those are Thailand and the Philipp...
3
of living. Many of the people live in poverty. There are great gaps in income levels, with a
relatively small and wealth...
4
10. Despite claiming an Asian value to guide the country, a number of countries in the
region are likely to see a change...
5
establishment of a network of meetings and functions, which have successfully increased
dialogue and consequently, decre...
6
(BSPP). Under the 1974 constitution, the country's chief executive official is the president;
however, the military cont...
7

ASEAN Regional Forum: The Main Objectives
22. The ARF had been instilled with three main objectives: confidence buildin...
8

SECURITY ISSUES INVOLVING NEW ASEAN
Human rights issue
27. Richard Nixon’s final words, ‘We must begin by asking oursel...
9
Mischief Reef, additional Islands in the Spratly group by china in 1995 and the Chinese
legislation of territorial water...
10
nation building issues in the foreseeable future. The problems will probably rise in those
countries where political an...
11
44. The relationship between the new ASEAN and the West is both settled and unsettled.
The positive effects can be seen...
1

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade 1997, The New ASEAN’s – Vietnam, Burma, Cambodia & Laos, Green
Advertising, Aus...
Bibliography
Alta Vista Searching, ‘Is Democracy an Asian Value?’, http://dicky.netscad.net/democracy.html,
accessed on 11...
Sengelman J.J. 1995, ‘The Regional Security: Implications of Vietnam’s Entry into ASEAN’, Fort
Queencliff Papers, Victoria...
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An Essay on, The Expansion of ASEAN: Implications for Regional Securityt

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An essay written in 1999, RAAF Command and Staff Course No.52, RAAF Command and Staff College, RAAF Base Fabian, Canberra, Australia

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An Essay on, The Expansion of ASEAN: Implications for Regional Securityt

  1. 1. AN ESSAY ON THE EXPANSION OF ASEAN: IMPLICATIONS FOR REGIONAL SECURITY By Squadron Leader W. Poosit The group as a whole will benefit; expansion will enrich ASEAN but it may strain the group’s cohesion. There also will be both costs and benefits to the new members. Some are foreseeable; others are intangible. Department of Foreign Affair and Trade1 INTRODUCTION Moving toward the year 2000, Asian countries are still struggling to find the ways for their survival and regional security from the modern world. The dramatic changes occurred in the Southeast Asia region after the end of Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union. Soviet military regime has withdrawn from the region and no longer poses either threats or support. American military power, which acted in response to the current situation, has reduced significantly in scale. Consequently, the region has been freed from superpower competition and intervention. The region that was divided by ideological lines in the past has moved toward reconciliation.2 1. 2. Established during the Vietnam War, Association of Southeast Asian Nations or ASEAN, regional alliance of six independent countries of Southeast Asia, was founded in Bangkok in August 1967 by Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. 3 Brunei joined the association after attaining independence in 1984 and Vietnam became the seventh ASEAN member in July 1995.4 ASEAN was originally intended to defend against the spread of Communism in Southeast Asia. Its principal objectives, outlined in the Bangkok Declaration (1967), were to accelerate economic growth and promote regional peace and stability. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, ASEAN played an important role in mediating the civil war in Cambodia. In January 1992, ASEAN members agreed to establish a free-trade area and to cut tariffs on non-agicultural goods over a 15-year period beginning in 1993. At the Fifth ASEAN Summit Meeting held in Bangkok in December 1995, the Southeast Asia Non-Nuclear Zone Treaty, which prohibits the use of nuclear weapons by the member states, was signed.5 3. In August 1997, the 30th anniversary of ASEAN, the original 7 members of ASEAN expanded into 10 countries; these included Myanmar, Laos, and in the near future Cambodia. The economic crisis and the demand to integrate the region have led Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia to review their foreign policies and they finally decided to join ASEAN. Laos and Myanmar became the eighth and the ninth ASEAN members respectively in July 1997. 6 Cambodia is expected to join ASEAN as soon as its political situation becomes secure and stable.7 The implication of the expansion can not be easily determined since the expansion may create uncertainties and complexities in the region. Once again the prospect of social instability still exist in this territory. In Indonesia, armed forces are returning to internal security, while the problems of illegal economic migrants in Malaysia and Thailand also demonstrate that security problems in Southeast Asia remain for the most part internal. 8 Of
  2. 2. 2 the nine nations in an expanded ASEAN only two can be considered liberal democracies, those are Thailand and the Philippines. 4. The existing members of ASEAN hope that the expansion of ASEAN will guarantee them more reliable future access to market in Indochina and Myanmar and will promote economic activity in the entire Southeast Asia region. They also anticipate that an expanded ASEAN will strengthen their diplomatic position to larger nations such as China, the United States, Japan and Europe and increase their influence within comprehensive organisations including APEC and the WTO.9 Despite criticisms from the West, ASEAN has expanded its members. 5. The aim of this essay is to examine the implication of the expansion of ASEAN for Southeast Asia security. This essay will first introduce the background of Asian countries including the overviews of Asia, Southeast Asia, Asian value and ASEAN in action. The uncertainties and challenges in Asian countries are also briefed. After that, this essay will examine security issues involving new ASEAN and how the new ASEAN memberships (Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia and also Vietnam) impact on individual member nations of the association. Finally, it will then consider the regional security issues within Southeast Asia that involve the new ASEAN, China and the West and how the new ASEAN memberships affect current ASEAN security arrangements. ASIAN BACKGROUND Asia 6. Asia is a land of extremes and contrasts. It is the largest and the most populous continent; similarly, Asia is also home to some of the world's oldest cultures. It has some of the poorest as well as some of the richest nations in the world. Because of its size, age, population and rich resources. Asia has long been of great interest to the rest of the world. In Asia's history, outsiders, principally Europeans, have tried to exploit and control it and its people. In the 20th century, however, Asia has experienced a great change. Many of the undeveloped countries of the region are taking various approaches to modernising their economies and societies, some under Communism. Progress has often been slow because of physical and cultural barriers, but there have been some notable advances and the efforts to upgrade the living standards. Southeast Asia 7. Southeast Asia's population of about 421 million is unevenly distributed. 10 Independent civilizations, such as the Khmer and Thai, had established in the region long before the colonial rule of the British, French, Dutch, Spanish, and Portuguese was imposed during the 16th and 17th centuries. All of Southeast Asia’s countries were under or influenced by colonial rule until the ending of World War II. 11 Since independence, these countries have struggled to develop their natural resources and industries for their national stability and good living of their people. The Economy 8. Great poverty contrasted with great wealth characterises Asian economies. Some countries such as, Japan and Singapore have standards of living equal to that of most Western countries. Other parts, such as Indonesia, Myanmar and Indochina have much lower standards
  3. 3. 3 of living. Many of the people live in poverty. There are great gaps in income levels, with a relatively small and wealthy group living in luxury and large masses of people who struggle to survive. One of the most important factors which explains this inequality is probably that Asian people still depend largely on agriculture for their living. Most Asian countries tend to be concentrated in a few large cities. The wealth produced by such urban-centered industry tends not to spread evenly throughout the countries. Asian traditional societies also reluctant to change customs. In many of the smaller countries, modern industrialised economy is concentrated in the largest city which is often the national capital. A small proportion of the people live there but their average income tends to be higher than that of the majority of the people living in rural areas. Most of the people still work in agriculture. There is little industry and income levels are low. Most of all, society changes slowly. Because of this gap between rural areas and the large cities, millions of rural people have been moving from the countryside to the cities to seek a better life. The rural areas also suffer because most of the migrants are young men. This trend is one of the major problems facing Asian nations that are still largely agricultural. Those familiar ways of living still continue and the leaders of each Asian country have to find suitable ways to modernise their countries yet still maintain their individual cultures. Asian Value Asian nations have claimed that their unique Asian value system was responsible for their rapid growth and change in living conditions. Geography, culture, economy, history and political structure have created the environment of foreign policy making. These factors influence the Asian’s leaders’ perceptions of future developments and they run deep. 12 Singapore's former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and Malaysia's current Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad actively promote the idea that a combination of authoritarianism and economic liberalism is desirable. They argue that this is the Asian way. They say democracy and human rights are Western values; Asians have "Asian values."13 By Asian values they mean that individual rights must be sacrificed to the common good, and the common good is defined by the leaders whose judgment one defies at one's peril. 14 Asian leader also fear that the extremes of liberalism, expressed as excessive individualism, may undermine cherished ways of defining and ordering Asian realities. The 20th century for Asian peoples has been a process of painful and profitable absorption of western science and technology. Most older leaders endorse the essentially colonial idea that Asian people are not ready just yet for democracy. They have to be better educated first, or become wealthier, or be more disciplined and more virtuous. Singapore is ideally placed because it is compact, wealthy and above all its leaders seem to be concerned about protecting and reviving Asian values. Lee Kuan Yew has argued that without the necessary measures to preserve traditional values within a guided political process, his nation could not have achieved its successful economic performance. They see the Asian economic crisis as, ‘a defining event of the post Cold War international order and that the principal concern is whether the resulting political and social upheaval will lead to international conflict and tension’.15 These Asian’s leaders’ perceptions led arguments from western countries; however, Asian countries agree that Asian value is the way to survive their countries and leads to security to the region. 9. UNCERTAINTIES IN ASIAN COUNTRIES Political
  4. 4. 4 10. Despite claiming an Asian value to guide the country, a number of countries in the region are likely to see a change of political regime in the foreseeable future. Some of the regimes have leaders who have been in power for a substantial period and it is uncertain whether any change or hand over will be achieved peacefully and without disruption. The timing of these changes is likely to be critical as they will coincide with economic and social pressures. Cultural Issues 11. The critical uncertainty resulting from an intolerance of cultural diversity also has the potential to undermine national unity. Some regional states are ethnically divided, such as India, Myanmar, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Laos. The tensions, which can arise from the pressures of various ethnic mixes, religious beliefs, languages and historical backgrounds, represent critical uncertainties. The aspirations of many of the groups in the current transition period will present difficult challenges for the maintenance of domestic political stability and key indicators of the degree and timing of change. Economic With the current disruption to many regional economies, there is no certainty that the financial and economic institutional reforms required for growth will be maintained. Domestic pressures may force some countries to look inward and become protectionist or isolationist rather than resolutely undertake the reform process. Recently, Malaysia adopted policies designed to insulate its economy from the international markets. This decision moves Malaysia away from the open market economy model. External and domestic pressures will expand. It will be watched with interest by other political elites in the region. Other nations could follow.16 12. Inter-State Disputes 13. Many nations in the region have overlapping territorial claims. For example, IndiaPakistan, China-Taiwan, North-South Korea, the dispute between Malaysia and Indonesia over the Sipidan and Ligatan Islands, and the disputes between China and the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei concerning the Paracel and Spratly Islands. These disputes are long-standing and there has been little to no progress in resolving them. Instead, economic growth has been the national and regional focus. It is at least uncertain that this situation will be maintained in the future. ASEAN 14. With the signing of the Bangkok Declaration, ASEAN was established on 8 August 1967 in Bangkok. Originally, the founders of the Association were Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. Brunei Darussalam became the sixth member of ASEAN on 8 January 1984.17 The Bangkok Declaration established guidelines for ASEAN’s activities and the aim of the association. In addition, ASEAN’s three main objectives are to promote the economic, social and cultural development of the region through cooperative programs; to safeguard the political and economic stability of the region against super power rivalry; and to serve as a forum for the resolution of intra-regional differences. 18 By implementing the Asian way of confidence building and conflict management, ASEAN has survived from war and conflicts in Southeast Asia for thirty years. The way involves the
  5. 5. 5 establishment of a network of meetings and functions, which have successfully increased dialogue and consequently, decreased probability of conflict. NEW MEMBERS OF ASEAN Vietnam 15. From the 1950s to the 1970s, Vietnam was the battleground of an extended war and was divided. The Vietnam War ended in 1975 and political unity was established the next year when the Democratic Republic of Vietnam in the north and the Republic of Vietnam in the south became one nation.19 16. Vietnam has failed to develop into a predominantly commercial nation or became a major participant in regional trade patterns. After a long period of Indochina War and the removal of Soviet support in December 1986, Vietnam has had to face many economic difficulties. The evidence can be seen from the withdrawal of Vietnamese troops from Cambodia in September 1989. The economic difficulties undermined Vietnam’s security so severely that it had to set up a system of market-driven economic reform or Doi Moi. 20 The Vietnam Communist Party (VCP) favoured economic liberalisation without becoming a democracy or risking its stability. After consistently implementing political and economic reform over many years, Vietnam moved towards ASEAN to further improve its economy and establish closer regional links. Laos 17. Laos is a landlocked country with most of its natural resources unexploited or unsurveyed. The overwhelming majority of the people are engaged in subsistence agriculture. Industry is limited to small plants manufacturing consumer products. During the 1980s the nation's large annual budget deficit was met by foreign aid, much of it from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and Vietnam. 21 Similar to Vietnam, Laos faced economic problems before joining ASEAN. Another victim of the Cold War, Laos was drawn into the Indochina conflict. In 1973, after the Paris Peace Agreement secured US military withdrawal from Vietnam, Laos’ coalition government with the Laos’ Communist Party was formed. In 1975, after the communist victory in Saigon and Phnom Penh, the Laos communists took full power. They abolished the monarchy and established the Laos People’s Democratic Republic under the Laos People’s Revolutionary Party. The Party has ruled the country since then. 22 From 1978 to 1980, a system of centralised physical planning was introduced. However, it was not successful, and Laos’ economy began to deteriorate. By following closely the Doi Moi in Vietnam, the new economic mechanism was implemented. Laos moved away from central planning towards a market-oriented economy.23 Myanmar 18. Myanmar is primarily an agricultural country. More than a half of the working population is engaged in growing or processing crops. Industrial development, which was almost nonexistent before World War II (1939-1945), accelerated in the 1960s and 1970s. 24 A major aim of the government has been to modernise and diversify the economy; consequently, many private enterprises have been nationalised. With its economic turmoil and its political instability, the government has made a start in its reforms encouraging economic growth. The military has ruled Myanmar since 1962. In 1974, the military established a new constitution which provided only one socialist political party, the Myanmar Socialist Program Party
  6. 6. 6 (BSPP). Under the 1974 constitution, the country's chief executive official is the president; however, the military controlled both directly and through the BSPP and the state administration throughout the country at all levels.25 Finally, in 1988, the new military regime, the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC), abandoned socialism and declared the open market economy policy as a way to capitalism. 26 Joining ASEAN was also a big step, which led to the regional economic integration, because Myanmar has had little experience in international organisations, especially at the regional level. As a result, Myanmar’s economy has started growing consistently. Cambodia 19. The end of the Cold War opened the way for a negotiated settlement of the seemingly intractable “Cambodia Problem” with Australia playing a major facilitating role. 27 After Vietnam withdrew its remaining troops from Cambodia in 1989, followed by the cease-fire agreement in 1991, Cambodia became more secure a stable. The signing of the Paris Peace Accords in 1992 placed Cambodia under the temporary administration of the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC). In 1993, under UNTAC’s administration, the general election was held. The result of the election was that Prince Narodom Ranariddh and Hun Sen became respectively first and second Prime Minister. 28 In 1997, Hun Sen overthrew Ranariddh after two days of intense fighting in the capital, Phnom Penh. As a result, ASEAN has postponed Cambodia’s membership.29 ASEAN APPROACH TO REGIONAL SECURITY 20. ASEAN was initially never intended to be established as a multilateral security organisation. Its role is obviously different from NATO and FPDA. 30 ASEAN increases individual security of its members through security cooperation. This is not seen as a formal multilateral security organisation. The end result of ASEAN’s inclusiveness in security cooperation was the development of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF). The purpose of ARF, which held its first meeting in Bangkok in July 1994, is to solve regional security problems.31 Its strength relies on the principles of non-violence, partnership and dialogues. Having participants from both ASEAN and non-ASEAN nations, the ARF gradually formulates ways and means to improve the confidence building measures, preventive diplomacy and conflict resolution. By using cooperative arrangements, ASEAN maintains regional security. ASEAN REGIONAL FORUM 21. The emergence in the formation of the ARF is to promote regional security, stability and tranquillity. ARF is seen in the context of keeping the United States within the region; trying to minimise the role of both China and Japan; and finally using the ARF as a platform to keep the connection of the ASEAN in South-East Asia. 32 Furthermore, it acts as a shock absorber against the existing trends within both the global economic and security climate. The ASEAN sought to ensure that the Western states that were encouraging the development of the ARF did not undermine the compulsions of the Asian way by instilling in the forum any major agenda on human rights and democratisation. The ASEAN also sought to extend its model of conflict prevention to the ARF which would provide the ASEAN a principal role in the region. The ASEAN's expansion to include Vietnam, Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia would automatically increase the influence that the ASEAN would enjoy in the ARF, thereby maintaining the centrality of the ASEAN's position in the ARF.
  7. 7. 7 ASEAN Regional Forum: The Main Objectives 22. The ARF had been instilled with three main objectives: confidence building measures, preventive diplomacy and the question of non-proliferation and arms control. These three objectives of the ARF were identified after an assessment of the various problems that affected the region. The ARF's approach to security cooperation in three categories: confidence building, preventive diplomacy and conflict resolution. The evolution of the ARF and the principles upon which it has been founded are identified as the "ASEAN way," which specifically refers to a unique approach of the ASEAN towards areas of conflict-settlement and regional cooperation.33 The singleness of the ASEAN way has been emphasised in both the conduct of inter-state behaviour as well as in the policy relating to decision making where there is total dependence on the processes of consultation and consensus. 23. The growth of the ASEAN to include Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam also brings with it a variety of new and more complex issues that will require special attention. 34 The fact that these states can now come together on a common platform for the resolution and discussion of security issues in itself is an achievement. Moreover, the ARF has succeeded in bringing to the forefront various issues relevant to the security concerns in the region. This is different from the ASEAN, where the question of security did not play a pivotal role because its political agenda was appeared in a broader economic grouping. It must be stated that the ARF has managed to broaden the scope of the security dialogue in the Asia-Pacific region. It remains the only grouping where all the major powers have been represented on a common stage and have the benefit of interacting in security related issues. ASEAN PERSPECTIVE 24. ASEAN countries wish to plan their own futures without significant outside interference. Though ASEAN members try to manage and arrange meetings to maintain regional peace and security; however, apprehensions do exist: the Taiwan/China dispute, conventional arms proliferation, the fragile Cambodian peace, the Spratly Islands and Chinese claims in the South China Sea and the division of Korea. 35 ASEAN countries are doubtful of using conflict resolution models such as OSCE, EC, and WEU from other areas of the world to reduce these apprehensions among nations in which cultures differ from those of Europe. To resolve disputes and addressing security matters, they are more likely to rely upon ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) even though it is in its beginning. 25. It is obvious in ASEAN perspective that the United States should continue safeguarding the regional balance of power and ensuring open trade. Because of China's growing military and economic power, ASEAN prefers that the United States remain engaged as a counterbalance to China. The United States will most likely continue as the number one outsider to ASEAN for trade and military power.36 26. Russia is viewed as a declining threat to in the region. Russia's absence as a player in Southeast Asia has made a great change on the regional security environment. 37 The unfavourable relationships among Southeast Asian nations built during the Cold War period are currently being restructured due to the absence of Soviet influence in the region and the need to enhance the regional economy.
  8. 8. 8 SECURITY ISSUES INVOLVING NEW ASEAN Human rights issue 27. Richard Nixon’s final words, ‘We must begin by asking ourselves what kind of world we want now that we have peace. Ideally, all nations should have free economic systems, free political systems, and an unfailing commitment to social justice and human rights.’ 38, is probably one of many great influences on the western thought of freedom and human right. Asian leaders listen to the idea but it is still difficult to abruptly apply to Asian people in the near future. They believe that human rights and freedom, without understanding and control, can easily create chaos in the large masses of less educated people. The argument seems not to be easily ended, base on a different belief; however, it is accepted that human rights and regional security issues are considerably linked. The worldwide human rights organisation particularly urged ASEAN members, with backing from the ARF, to step up efforts aimed to improve the human rights situation in Myanmar and Cambodia. Security problems that affect the region, especially in Cambodia, North Korea, East Timor, Bougainville and Myanmar, are commonly human rights violations. The Economic Crisis and ASEAN States' Security 28. Asia's financial crisis has quickly become a global problem. Its implications exceeded economic or financial considerations. In fact, the crisis that began with the fall of Thailand's Baht in 1997 now embraces the entire world and has caused governments to fall in Asia and Russia. The defense modernisation and arms acquisitions of the past 15 years are now being significantly cut back. Replacement of obsolete systems is being delayed. Overall, modernisation has been put on hold as financial resources disappear. However, the region cannot be considered more stable because of a traditional belief in arm racing, which has sought to secure each member country’s requirement for protection of national interests. New ASEAN and old ASEAN Most common conflicts between the new ASEAN and old ASEAN involve territorial disputes both on land and offshore. The expansion of maritime territorial as result of the extension of territorial waters and the exclusive provision of the third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS III) has resulted in overlapping claims. 39 As a result, maritime boundary disputes have existed between Thailand and Malaysia, Cambodia and Vietnam, and Vietnam and Indonesia. In addition, land border disputes have occurred between Thailand and Laos, Thailand and Cambodia, Thailand and Burma, and Cambodia and Vietnam. These issues are not expected to become a threat to regional security by ASEAN members and can be resolved, particularly when Cambodia receives ASEAN membership. 29. New ASEAN and China 30. The most obvious conflict that involves not only new ASEAN and China but also some old ASEAN countries and China is the Spratly Islands dispute. It becomes more of a serious issue between China and Vietnam since both countries lay claims to the entire Spratly Islands. The dispute has become more complex by several attendant factors such as the seizure of
  9. 9. 9 Mischief Reef, additional Islands in the Spratly group by china in 1995 and the Chinese legislation of territorial waters law which affirmed the territorial sovereignty over the Spratly Islands.40 Consequently, even though ASEAN does not see China as a threat, it still poses a regional security risk if China and the involved ASEAN nations cannot resolve the dispute peacefully. New ASEAN and the West 31. The relationship between the new ASEAN and the West can be both favourable and unfavourable. The favourable relationship is between Vietnam and the West, especially United States. The unfavourable relationship is between Myanmar and the West. 32. After the end of Cold War, followed by the withdrawal of Vietnam forces from Cambodia, the relationship between Vietnam and US has been enhanced significantly. The most outstanding result can be seen from the establishment of the first Vietnamese diplomatic office in Washington in 1995 and the appointment the first American ambassador to Vietnam in 1997.41 33. The United States can play a major role in shaping the choices by promoting a possible future of stability, economic openness and prosperity, and political freedom. But ultimately, the political, economic, and security future of Asia will depend on decisions by the people of Asia. 34. The relationship between Myanmar and the West becomes unsettled because of Myanmar’s human rights issues. The problem is so serious that in 1991, a United States official told ASEAN foreign ministers in Kuala Lumper that Myanmar was a ‘cancer of instability’ in the region.42 However, Myanmar became a full member of ASEAN in July 1997 since ASEAN insisted on its policy of non-interference in the international affairs of other countries. The problem can have some negative effects to the relationship between ASEAN as a whole and the West and they can not be solved easily. IMPLICATIONS FOR ASEAN The New Geostrategic Environment 35. As a result of the addition of four new ASEAN states in the association, Asia faces a new geostrategic situation. This addition will play a leading role in determining whether security or insecurity will prevail.43 In additions, the remnants of the Cold War have resulted in significant changes in the region; especially, the strategic circumstances previously experienced in ASEAN countries. As a result, uncertainties involving the balance of power within the region are created.44 36. With the four new ASEAN members, the organisation will have a considerable number of its members in the Asian continent. It will also have a direct border with two great powers. China and India. This will lead ASEAN to embrace a more balanced maritime and continental perspective.45 Cohesion or Conflict 37. Countries in ASEAN are expected to continue to be profoundly preoccupied with
  10. 10. 10 nation building issues in the foreseeable future. The problems will probably rise in those countries where political and socio-economic situations are poorly developed or are most unstable. These countries are Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia. In the ASEAN countries, the primary nation–building issues will ensue from ethnic and religious factors and will also be associated with the process of evolving mature political institutions and systems for their respective societies. These issues will undoubtedly have repercussions and complicate bilateral relations which will tend to deteriorate periodically in some specific events. 38. The other implications come from the distinction between the old ASEAN and the new ASEAN political systems. Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia are the communist countries. Myanmar is the only socialist country which is ruled by the armed forces. ASEAN security needs will be mainly confidence building measures between the new and old members and among all members of ASEAN. This task seems to be more difficult as the new members have different political systems and are not yet familiarised with the ASEAN way. The new members also add to the list of disputes and sources of suspicion and distrust among the members. As a result, ASEAN’s achievement at conflict avoidance and conflict management will be challenged significantly. 39. Because almost all of the Southeast Asian countries are experiencing economic setbacks together, China’s unimpeded arms buildups appear to be hazardous. If a difference in arms balances develops over time between the PLA and ASEAN armed forces, China could behave more boldly in the South China Sea. Offensive military action to occupy largely unpopulated islets against multiple potential adversaries is one of the classic risks under multipolarity. 40. The Spratly Islands conflict has become a significant issue in the region since it involves overlapping claims and multiple claimants. It has also created suspicions among the claimants, especially, Vietnam and China. The solution to this dispute is not easily determinable and it still creates tension in the region. 41. In their physical and human geography as well as historical experience, the states of ASEAN comprise a rich diversity characteristic of Southeast Asia. That diversity has given rise to important differences of strategic perspective and political interest within the association which have limited its efficiency. CONCLUSION 42. Southeast Asian countries have historically resolved disputes through bilateral agreements. The major multilateral organisation is the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which advocates "preventive diplomacy" among its members and with surrounding nations. In Asian countries, security concerns are more traditional, centering on disputes over resources and territorial boundaries. The formation of ARF will gradually evolve into a platform for the promotion of regional security, stability and tranquillity. 43. With economic difficulties, Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar joined ASEAN in order to improve their economic situation. Cambodia is also expected to become a member as soon as its political environment stabilises. The end of the Cold War has altered Asia’s geostrategic environment. The strategic focus of Southeast Asia is marked by uncertainties, which are caused by the transition from bipolarity to multipolarity.
  11. 11. 11 44. The relationship between the new ASEAN and the West is both settled and unsettled. The positive effects can be seen from the establishment of diplomatic relations between Vietnam and US. On the other hand, Myanmar’s connection to the West is less favourable due to its human rights issues. Consequently, it may, if it has not already, affect the credibility of the group in the wider international community. 45. This essay has examined that poorly developed economies and instable governments amongst ASEAN countries, especially the new members, may affect ASEAN reputation and progress. Furthermore, it may deteriorate bilateral relations periodically. In addition, the dissimilarities of ASEAN’s political systems may strain ASEAN cohesion. This will be a major test for ASEAN as to whether it can build a united environment in the region. ENDNOTES
  12. 12. 1 Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade 1997, The New ASEAN’s – Vietnam, Burma, Cambodia & Laos, Green Advertising, Australia, p 309. 2 Leifer M. 1989, ASEAN and the Security of South-East Asia, Routledge, London, p 49. 3 ibid, p vii. 4 ASEAN, ‘From ASEAN-5 to ASEAN-10’, www.aseansec.org, www.aseansec.org/clm/asean_10.htm, accessed on 11 May 1999. 5 Takuma Y. 1997, Asian Security 1996-97, Biddles Ltd, Guildford, p.148. 6 ASEAN, loc cit. 7 Ausinfo, 1998, SBS World Guide 6th Edition, Hardie Grant Publishing, Victoria, p 126. 8 Simon S. W., ‘Global Beat: The Economic Crisis and ASEAN States’ Security, www.nyu.edu/globalbeat/asia/Simon102398.html, accessed on 11 May 1999. 9 Takuma Y., 1998, Asian Security 1997-98, Biddles Ltd, Guildford, p.147. 10 Westlake M., 1998, Review: Asia 1998, Review Publishing Company Ltd., Hong Kong, p 14. 11 Good D. 1996, ‘Asia’, Compton’s Interactive Encyclopedia 1996 Edition, Compton’s New Media, Inc, accessed on 16 June 1999. 12 West P. and Geusau F. 1987, The Pacific Rim and the Western World: Strategic, Economic, and Cultural Perspectives, Westview Press, London, p 32. 13 Alta Vista Searching, ‘Is Democracy an Asian Value?’, http://dicky.netscad.net/democracy.html, accessed on 11 May 1999. 14 Alta Vista Searching, loc cit. 15 Davies B., ‘1998 Current Political Trends in Asia Pacific Security-Implications for Australia in the 21 st Century’, www.acdss.gov.au/acdss/confrnce/1998/politics.htm, accessed on 11 May 1999. 16 Simon S. W., ‘Global Beat: The Economic Crisis and ASEAN States’ Security, www.nyu.edu/globalbeat/asia/Simon102398.html, accessed on 11 May 1999. 17 ASEAN, ‘History Background’, www.aseansec.org, www.aseansec.org/history/asn_his2.htm, accessed on 11 May 1999. 18 ASEAN, loc cit. 19 Good D. 1996, ‘Vietnam’, Compton’s Interactive Encyclopedia 1996 Edition, Compton’s New Media, Inc, accessed on 16 June 1999. 20 Sengelman J.J., 1995, ‘The Regional Security: Implications of Vietnam’s Entry into ASEAN’, Fort Queencliff Papers, Victoria, p 206. 21 Grolier Electronic Publishing, Inc., 1996, ‘Laos: Economy”, Grolier Electronic Publishing, Inc., accessed on 16 June 1999. 22 Department of Foreign Affair and Trade, op cit, p 236. 23 ibid, p 256. 24 Grolier Electronic Publishing, Inc., 1996, ‘Burma: Economy”, Grolier Electronic Publishing, Inc., accessed on 16 June 1999. 25 Department of Foreign Affair and Trade, op cit, p 98. 26 ibid, p 97. 27 ibid, p 167. 28 Ausinfo, op cit, p 126. 29 CNN, 23 July 1997, ‘ASEAN rejects Cambodian Membership’, www.cnn.com, www.cnn.com/world/9707/23/ asean/index.html, accessed on 11 May 1999. 30 Sengelman, op cit. 31 ibid, p 201. 32 Sundararaman S., ‘The ASEAN Regional Forum: Reassessing Multilateral Security in the Asia Pacific’, www.idsaindia.org/an-jul8-11.html, accessed on 11 May 1999. 33 loc cit. 34 H.S. Ahluwalia, "ASEAN Regional Forum: Implications on Stability in the Region," Trishul, vol. 9, no. 1, Autumn 1996, p. 329. 35 Everett W.M., ‘Multilateralism in Southeast Asia’, www.ndu.edu/inss/strforum/forum33.html, accessed on 11 May 1999. 36 loc cit. 37 loc cit. 38 Nixon’s Final Words, ‘Last Testament of Richard Nixon’, Time, 2 May 1994, p 30. 39 Sengelman, op cit, p 210. 40 Strasser S. 1995, ‘The Neighbours Are Restless’, Newsweek, 18 July 1995, p 45. 41 Ausinfo, op cit, p 823. 42 ibid, p 118. 43 Sengelman, op cit, p 212. 44 Sengelman, loc cit. 45 ibid, p 216.
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