(Re)Negotiating East and Southeast Asia: Region, Regionalism, and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations

By Alice D. BA | Go to book overview

6
ASEAN of and Beyond Southeast Asia:
The ASEAN Regional Forum

It is better to talk than not to talk, and it is better to talk to people
you know.

Bangkok Post (25 July 1994)

We reject the possibility of ASEAN evolving into a regional, col-
lective security arrangement or military alliance. We are able to
do this because of our belief that to win friends, one should not
create enemies.

Mahathir bin Mohamad,
Prime Minister of Malaysia, 1987
1

As regional and global systems transitioned into a new era, economics and trade were not the only areas where new challenges were compelling new thinking about regionalism. In the political-security realm, as well, ASEAN states found themselves confronted with parallel concerns about major power roles, intra-ASEAN unity, and indeed the future of Southeast Asia as a meaningful region and organizing principle. This chapter traces the process by which ASEAN’s founding consensus about security and understandings about its identity as a Southeast Asian organization are destabilized and the subsequent process of debate and consensus searching that follows. This chapter shows how old ideas—resilience as unity, self-determination, inclusive engagement, and perhaps most important, the idea of Southeast Asia as a distinct region—continue to constrain collective endeavors but are also adapted for new conditions.

In detailing these processes, this chapter picks up on four intertwined, interactive debates. The first two are continuations of older debates, namely, the appropriateness of external security guarantees and a Southeast Asian ZOPFAN. The latter two—whether to extend ASEAN’s Treaty of Amity and Cooperation and ASEAN processes beyond Southeast Asia—focus on the appropriateness of ASEAN principles, processes, and modes of engagement beyond Southeast Asia. The products of these debates will be a refined U.S.— ASEAN security relationship, a new Southeast Asian Nuclear Weapons Free

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