Working East Asian Security Community and Multilateral Institution Building
Paper for CSCAP 6th General Conference
December 7-8, 2007
East Asia has been the fastest developing region in the world in the past decade. Regional economic and functional cooperation has made great progress. There has been no big war and large-scale conflict.
However, traditional security threats are many. The decade has witnessed progress in regional cooperation, and at the same time a Westphilian culture still dominates. Suspicion, distrust, and even hostility prevent nations in the region from effective cooperation in the traditional security area. The nuclear and security issue on the Korean Peninsular still needs time to solve; China and Japan faces numerous problems though their relations have turned for the better; the mainland of China and Taiwan have tensions from time to time due to the repeated challenge by Chen Shuibian; and territorial disputes involve many countries in the region.
The existence of all these security threats coincides with a serious lack of institutional arrangements for the region. Thus, lack of reliable predictability and restraint is a common thing in East Asia. Although we seem to have sufficient wisdom to keep all the threats from escalating to a major conflict, there is no guarantee that such escalation would not occur in the future. Institutional arrangements are highly necessary if we want our region to have sustainable security and continued prosperity.
What is encouraging, however, is that something has happened in the region. Smart, rational, and successful exploitation of these positive developments will facilitate the establishment of institutional arrangements. I will discuss some of these developments.
I. The Korean Peninsular: From a Nuclear Crisis to a Lasting Peace Mechanism
The six-party talks on the Korean nuclear issue, after years and rounds of patient negotiations, see remarkable progress in 2007. Two important breakthroughs deserve mentioning. The first is the 2005 Joint Statement, which includes the DPRK commitment to abandon its nuclear programs and the US promise not to attack or invade DPRK. “Commitment for commitment, action for action" served as an usher for further cooperation.
The second breakthrough is the six round when all parties agreed to push forward the six-party talks process toward the goal of verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsular in a peaceful manner. Implementation is going on.
Along with the progress in the Korean issue, North and South Korea have made effort to improve their relations. The leaders signed a declaration, emphasizing peace and prosperity as well as further improvement of their relations.
The progress offers some favorable conditions for building a multilateral mechanism for peace and security on the Korean Peninsular. First, important stakeholders are present and persistent in engaging themselves in the negotiation process; second, some important principles and norms and decision making procedures are taking shape, such as dialogue, negotiation, and peaceful settlement of disputes; third, a multilateral framework works for keeping all parties, including the conflicting ones, engaged.
Based upon the progress already achieved, it is possible to first set up a multilateral mechanism for lasting peace on the peninsular, with the signing of a peace agreement by the two Koreas, China, and the United States. With continued effort, this can be made to evolve into a multilateral institution for Northeast Asia, which will provide a foundation for a Northeast Asian security community, even though the road must be extremely tortuous.
II. ASEAN Security Community: Promise to Reaching Out
ASEAN has decided to establish an ASEAN security community by 2020. Several decades of cooperation in various fields among ASEAN nations, they have developed their way of community building. The degree of their economic integration is high, their cooperation is extensive, and their community identity is easier to develop and consolidate. Even thought there has been talk about the lack of ASEAN cohesiveness and there are thorny problems within ASEAN, the ASEAN Charter and the political will expressed by ASEAN leaders are encouraging. Thus it is possible that ASEAN can materialize the planned security community.
If ASEAN security community is going on smoothly, it will help promote an East Asian security framework, with China, Japan, and ROK gradually joining in. The present cooperation model in the economic and functional areas has developed positive principles and norms, which may be borrowed and used in security cooperation. At the same time, ASEAN-centered dialogues with other actors both within and without the region may keep the regional security cooperation process open, which should be seen as a positive rather than negative factor.
The key to the success of this somewhat ideal type of the regional security framework, at present, is to support the development of the ASEAN security community.
The past success in economic cooperation shows that the ASEAN leadership in regional institution building is crucial. Since the 2005 East Asian Summit, there have been new problems, some of which have led to the argument that ASEAN is too weak to lead the regional process. ASEAN has shown some weaknesses in internal cohesiveness and the Plus Three are three major players in the region. A changed pattern of regional leadership, however, would risk derailing the process itself, especially when we come to the most sensitive area of traditional security. Thus support of ASEAN's effort to build the ASEAN security community is imperative.
Ⅲ. APEC, ARF, and the Role of the United States:
East Asian regionalism is by nature and by necessity open regionalism. It cannot copy models anywhere else. For a security institutional framework, it is neither possible nor desirable to establish a close system. The Korean nuclear issue and the process of East Asian regional cooperation in the past decade have further proven this point.
A most desirable model of East Asian security institutional framework is the integration of ASEAN security community with a Northeast Asian security community, which has close connections with actors outside the region. As a more balanced configuration of power structure which includes major countries in and outside the region provides a favorable condition for stability, a dynamic internal process of security cooperation will help bring about a stable regional order.
For this overall architecture, the United States plays an important role. The United States has important interests in East Asia. Its hub-and spoke alliance system continues to exist and work, and its involvement in APEC and ARF makes the regional economic and security processes open and porous. For institutional arrangements concerning East Asia, ARF is able to play a pivot role in reaching out of the region.
As the rise of China coincides with the development of East Asian regionalism, some people are concerned, thinking the possibility of China's replacement of the United States in terms of influence in the region. Thus, for the United States, its present policy seems somewhat unclear: While it is not opposed to East Asian multilateralism, it is at least not actively supportive of it. Two major concerns of the United States are there: first, whether the East Asian regionalism should replace or threaten the US bilateral alliance system; second, whether this regional multilateral process would be dominated by China.