Non-Proliferation and Counterterrorism Cooperation in Southeast Asia: Meeting Global Obligations through Regional Security Architectures?

By Ogilvie-White, Tanya | Contemporary Southeast Asia, April 2006 | Go to article overview

Non-Proliferation and Counterterrorism Cooperation in Southeast Asia: Meeting Global Obligations through Regional Security Architectures?


Ogilvie-White, Tanya, Contemporary Southeast Asia


The prevention of catastrophic terrorism, the consequences of which were witnessed so graphically on 11 September 2001 (9/11), calls for international cooperation on a scale and at a level never witnessed before. Although security priorities and threat perceptions continue to vary widely from superpower to micro-state, and from one region to another, ordinary people everywhere felt a collective revulsion and a shiver down the spine that day, and many recognized the need for new, collaborative approaches to security. Subsequent terrorist attacks around the world, combined with revelations over the existence of nuclear black market networks and reports that Osama Bin Laden considers it a "duty" for Al Qaeda to acquire nuclear weapons, have augmented this mutual insecurity and fostered a desire for stronger security mechanisms. This presents both challenges and opportunities for the international community: short-term challenges to build effective security institutions to prevent and respond to global terrorism, and longer-term opportunities to forge new cultures of peace and cooperation in the process. As highlighted in A More Secure World: Our Shared Responsibility, the report of the United Nations's High-Level Panel, success in meeting these challenges will be dependent upon the willingness of states and international organizations to harness their energy to strengthen global and regional institutions. (1)

This article explores the relationship between global and regional governance in tackling terrorism, with particular reference to the security of nuclear, biological, chemical, and radiological (NBCR) materials in Southeast Asia. Although the prevention of criminal and terrorist access to nuclear weapons, materials, and facilities in the former Soviet Union and Pakistan are considered the top priority in the race against catastrophic terrorism (Perkovich et al. 2005), certain developments in Southeast Asia have focused international attention on the region's research reactors and future nuclear power plants as potential targets for terrorists intent on acquiring nuclear and radioactive materials (Abuza 2002; Ogilvie-White 2004; Roston 2002; Shafie and Thayer 2003). In particular, concerns have been raised due to a worrying combination of regional risk factors: the expansion of nuclear energy and research; lax procedures for protecting, controlling, and accounting for nuclear and radioactive materials; and mounting evidence that Southeast Asia has become a significant base for international terrorists. Recent reports revealing the involvement of key individuals from Southeast Asia in the nuclear black market and in Al Qaeda's attempts to acquire NBCR weapons create the impression that Southeast Asia is becoming an increasingly significant supplier of WMD (weapons of mass destruction) materials and expertise. (2)

This article also explores the role of regional institutions in encouraging security cooperation in the Asia-Pacific, particularly in relation to NBCR security, and assesses their achievements in ensuring the implementation of, and compliance with, global multilateral non-proliferation agreements. The first part of the article describes the global multilateral non-proliferation instruments that have been established or consolidated since the terrorist attacks of 9/11, analysing the extent to which ASEAN members have been co-operating with these initiatives. The second part analyses the role of three Asia-Pacific regional security frameworks, charting their successes and failures both in setting the regional non-proliferation agenda and in ensuring that pledges made by ministers at the regional level are followed by positive action at the national level.

Part One: Global Non-proliferation and Counter-terrorism Obligations

Prevention of catastrophic terrorism will require major security cooperation at the regional and global levels, and will be dependent on every state introducing effective domestic controls to prevent the theft and illicit trade of sensitive materials within and across their borders. …

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