Towards an Inclusive Regional Security Architecture in Southeast Asia

By Hen, Ng Eng | Hampton Roads International Security Quarterly, April 1, 2012 | Go to article overview

Towards an Inclusive Regional Security Architecture in Southeast Asia


Hen, Ng Eng, Hampton Roads International Security Quarterly


I would like to start by positioning my remarks from the security perspective of Singapore, as a small nation state and as part of ASEAN, a regional grouping of 10 countries.

I would like to make three main substantive points. First, economically, Asia is expected to do better than the rest of the World, and increase in its strategic weight.

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), by 2015, Asia will be comparable in size to the economies of the US and Europe combined. By 2030, Asia with its growing middle class will account for more than 40% of global output, exceeding the size of the G-7 economies combined. Developing Asia alone, will account for 43% of world consumption at that time.

ASEAN has about 600 million people and still relatively young, and is projected to grow to 700 million in 2030. ASEAN's combined GDP now is about US$3.12 trillion, purchasing power parity terms, slightly more than Germany's current GDP. The IMF predicts that by the end of the decade, ASEAN's GDP will increase by 50% to about US$5 trillion, exceeding Germany's projected GDP by a third in the same year.

Half of the world's shipping, by tonnage, as well as half of the world's oil tanker traffic sailing through the South China Sea and the Straits of Malacca. For example, last year, around 80% of Japan's crude oil imports and 80% of China's crude oil imports, passed through the Straits of Malacca and Singapore.

We talked about the role of the European Union (EU) and the EU was ASEAN's 3rd biggest trade partner last year. EU's trade with Asia amounted to 40% of its total trade. These figures tell us that. European states cannot afford to be disengaged from our region, their present pre-occupations notwithstanding.

My second point, I agree with Vice Minister Zhang, that we will need an inclusive security architecture. This is required to accommodate rising aspirations and interests of individual countries in the Asia- Pacific region.

For over 60 years, the US has provided the security that underpins the stability and remarkable economic progress that all countries from Asia-Pacific have enjoyed. In this regard, I would also like to quote from my erstwhile counterpart, the former Indonesian Minister of Defense, Dr Juwono Sudarsono. He was Minister of Defense from 1999- 2000 and 2004-2009. And I quote, "What is often understated is that Asia-Pacific Cooperation the birth of ASEAN in 1967, APEC in 1989 and the East Asia Summit in 2005 were made possible by America's pre-eminence.... America's "forward presence" provided vital "strategic assurance", guaranteeing regional and financial growth. …

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