In Search of Asia-Pacific Security Architecture

03 August 2015
PHNOM PENH (Khmer Times) – Experts and officials from East Asia gathered in Phnom Penh recently to discuss regional security issues, challenges, and policy responses. The meeting was presided over by Cambodia’s foreign minister Hor Namhong.
Cambodia stressed the complexity of transnational crimes such as international terrorism, radicalism, and drug trafficking, and urged regional countries to strengthen regional cooperation to address these security issues.
“These criminal acts are gravely affecting the whole world, including many countries in our region,” Mr. Hor Namhong stated in his opening remarks.
Several competing concept papers are being discussed under the framework of East Asia Summit: China’s New Asian Security Concept, Indonesia’s Indo-Pacific Treaty, and India’s Concept Paper on Asia-Pacific Security Architecture.
Russia, together with China and Brunei, also proposed a set of principles to strengthen security cooperation in the Asia Pacific region.
These proposals, which were initiated a few years ago, share a common vision, which is to maintain peace and security in the Asia Pacific region. Yet, they have slightly different emphases and approaches.
China’s New Asian Security Concept
China advocates security concept based on common, comprehensive, cooperative, and sustainable security, and provides more public security goods through regional cooperation on traditional and non-traditional security issues.
“We cannot just have security for one or a few countries while leaving the rest insecure,” stated Chinese President Xi Jinping in May 2014. “A military alliance which is targeted at a third party is not conducive to common regional security.”
Indonesia’s Indo-Pacific Security Concept 
Indonesia’s proposal aims to strengthen connections between the Pacific and Indian Oceans. It focuses on mutual trust and confidence, commitment to peaceful settlement of disputes, and a dynamic equilibrium.
“A ‘pacific’ Indo-Pacific region requires a new paradigm in the region’s inter-state relations,” said then-Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa in May 2013.
It is crucial to “promote a concept of security that is all encompassing, underscoring that security is a common good.”
India’s Asia Pacific Security Concept 
India has taken proactive approach in its “Act East Policy.” Linking the Indian and Pacific Oceans is the focus of India’s foreign policy. India wishes to be a “net security provider” in the Asia Pacific.
Recognising the central role of Asean in driving regional security cooperation, triangle relationships among China, India, and the United States are the cornerstone of peace and stability in the region.
“Shared power, if it works for all parties, will be at the heart of Asia’s emerging security architecture. And that, I believe, warrants following this triangle closely,” Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, foreign secretary of India’s Ministry of External Affairs, said last month
Asean-Centric Regional Security Architecture 
Asean has been thriving to assert its regional role to shape regional security architecture in the Asia Pacific region.
Under Asean’s leadership, several regional security institutions have been established to enhance strategic trust and confidence, strengthen regional cooperation, and most importantly to promote common regional identity and rules-based interstate relations.
However, Asean’s unity and autonomy have been tested by regional security tensions and events.
Different positions and approaches among the Asean member countries with regards to the South China Sea dispute are construed as a main threat to Asean’s unity and solidarity.
“The South China Sea is also a litmus test of Asean’s centrality due to its significant impacts on the credibility of Asean-led norms and mechanisms that are at the core of the regional security architecture,” said Asean Secretary-General Le Luong Minh in June.
Asean’s Security Relevance 
For Asean to stay relevant in security matters, it needs to provide security assurance to its member states. For instance, the failure of Asean in preventing Cambodia-Thailand border conflict in 2011 forced Cambodia to find an alternative security provider.
The ongoing border tensions between Cambodia and Vietnam is another regional security flashpoint that deserves regional attention and engagement from Asean.
Asean must strengthen its regional security role by adding preventive diplomacy and conflict resolution to the existing confidence building measures.

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