East Asian Security Architecture: Where to from Here? Beth Greener Reviews Developments in Regional Security Co-Operation and Urges Continuing New Zealand Engagement

By Greener, Beth | New Zealand International Review, January-February 2009 | Go to article overview

East Asian Security Architecture: Where to from Here? Beth Greener Reviews Developments in Regional Security Co-Operation and Urges Continuing New Zealand Engagement


Greener, Beth, New Zealand International Review


East Asian security architecture is, as many scholars seem to enjoy pointing out, neither particularly complete in reach and depth nor excessively concrete in terms of levels of permanency. Indeed Alan Romberg, a senior associate at the Henry L. Stimson Centre, has argued that 'Security Architecture' is too grand a term for what currently exists in East Asia and what is likely to exist in the foreseeable future. What we have, rather, is a set of security issues and relationships 'with little prospect that this will change significantly'. (1)

But these relationships do constitute the security architecture of East Asia, albeit an architecture that comes in many overlapping forms, with varying levels of formality and status. At present such architecture includes: multilateral fora such as the Six Party Talks, various ASEAN initiatives, Asia-Pacific Economic Community (APEC), Shanghai Co-operation Organisation (SCO), Track II diplomatic relationships, as well as more or less formalised bilateral and trilateral arrangements. Furthermore, not only is there now discussion of a possible North Asia peace and security mechanism as heir to the Six Party Talks, East Asian architecture could well come to encompass broader arrangements if more is made of the ASEAN system, or if there are new developments with the US alliances and relationships in the region, or if the much discussed 'Concert of Democracies' is realised. In assessing the future of East Asian architecture in the region, there are many options to consider, and across these there are four main issues that confront us: the first is the question of one architecture or many; the second is who is in and who is out of such structures; the third is what issue comes under the remit of that architecture and the last is at what level of government--heads of state or other?

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Future options

In 2008 it appears as if Russia will help oversee the development of a new North Asia peace and security mechanism as successor to the Six Party Talks--though the inner workings of this process are not yet known. However public and academic discussions range over a wide range of possibilities, from a narrower mechanism that focuses on traditional inter-state security concerns such as weapons of mass destruction proliferation in North-east Asia only to a broader arrangement. The latter could focus on non-traditional security threats too and could even potentially be worked in with various economic tracks that would work to provide incentives for improved security conditions. (2) Hence retired US Ambassador La Porta has argued that 'transcendent Northeast Asia issues, especially energy, finance, trade and transportation, should be locked into a gradualistic consultative framework sooner than later'. (3)

And, indeed, in addition to the question of key focuses the question of 'who is in and who is out' also still prevails. In 2007, for example, a bipartisan working group in the United States called for a new four-party agreement between the two Koreas, China and the United States. Moreover this initial phase was to be followed by the 'aggressive exploration' of a 'multilateral organization for security and cooperation in Northeast Asia that could grow out of the current six-party arrangement' and that would be modeled on the ONCE. (4) Similarly at the Shangri-La dialogue Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd called for a more inclusive Asia-Pacific community that would bring in the United States, India, China and Japan. So what are the choices currently on the table for creating a new North Asia (or rather an even broader) regional security mechanism?

Possible base

ASEAN and its offspring are seen as a possible base from which to construct a more concrete security mechanism. Relationships already exist in the form of:

* ASEAN: Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, Brunei, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia

* ASEAN plus One: China

* ASEAN plus Three: China, South Korea, Japan

* ASEAN plus CER: New Zealand and Australia

* East Asia Summit (EAS): ASEAN plus the above and India (sixteen countries) and Russia with observer status

* ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF): the above plus Bangladesh, Canada, North Korea, Mongolia, Pakistan, PNG, Russia, East Timor, United States, and Sri Lanka

* Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM): ASEAN plus Three and European Union

* ASEAN-Russia summit. …

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