Japan’s Role in ASEAN Regional Forum


The term “strengthening security”, as embodied in the title for this paper, carries with it a wider and broader scope than it actually means. This is because in carrying out this topic, strengthening security would further connote economic, political, and diplomatic, ties of Japan with the international community and the member states of the ASEAN. The discussion on the ASEAN Regional Forum as well as the activities and diplomatic problems carried along with it can lead to a broader meaning of “strengthening security”.

Japan’s role in the development of the ASEAN and in the peace and prosperity of the region cannot be undermined. Although Japan is not an original member of the ASEAN Regional Forum, it actively supports the goals and objectives of the ARF. Unlike other regional organizations, ASEAN is just a diplomatic association of Southeast Asian countries, and not a security alliance. This is a regional grouping whose initial objective is diplomatic in nature and to unite the countries of Southeast Asia.

The beginnings of the ASEAN can be traced back to the establishment of the Association of Southeast Asia, which was created in July 1961with the objective of initiating a dialogue between the countries of Thailand, Malaya and the Philippines. ASA was short-lived, and soon followed the Maphilindo. Finally in 1967, ASEAN was launched through what was known as the Bangkok Declaration with its original five members, namely: Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.

The emerging communist threat and the ongoing Chinese Cultural Revolution were one of the motivating factors for the establishment of the ASEAN.

The experience of ASEAN in dealing with conflicts of member countries provided for a meaningful background to the establishment of a new form of conflict management mechanism which is the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF). ARF is described as “an extensive inter-governmental grouping, which focuses on dialogue and confidence-building measures as a first step in promoting cooperative security” (Emmers – Cooperative Security 10).

Japan has a significant role to play in the ARF mechanism. However, one significant note in Japan’s entry in the ARF is its role in the international diplomatic arena. As we can see, Japan is still under the ‘clutches’ of the United States’ influence. Japan and the United States have close diplomatic relations, and not all member countries of the ASEAN are ‘friendly’ to this set up.

Will this not affect Japan’s role in the ARF?


This paper focuses, among other topics, on the role of Japan in the current situation in ASEAN Regional Forum and the ASEAN in general. The ASEAN evolved from the Association of South East Asia with goals and objectives that may have evolved through time. ASEAN is now comprised of ten nations in Southeast Asia – its policies are framed out of several environmental influences, some of which can be said to be influenced by Japan and the United States.

The role of ASEAN and the ARF may be diplomatic, yet they shape some of the diplomatic policies of the member countries. It cannot really be said that it is diplomatic per se; what is clear in the minds of the member countries is that ASEAN is a regional grouping that is distinct from other European counterpart groupings.

Historical activities in ASEAN have helped mould the grouping into what it is now. It has considerably grown, but its size and make up have made it distinct from other regional groupings.

In stating the background of this paper, we initially started with some definitions and concepts of terms. We defined ASEAN in the context of how it has met the goals and objectives of the member countries from the very beginning. This was also compared to the way Japan acted its role in the ASEAN.

The establishment of ARF is an interesting topic for discussion in the sense that ARF is a management mechanism in dealing with regional conflicts.

To relate the subject of the ASEAN and ARF is to dissect the historical background of its establishment as well as the activities of the member states during those times. We trace this way before the Cold War period. But even during the Cold War, international relation amongst the ASEAN member states was very much affected. At the close of the Cold War, there was a new regionalism which is a significant factor in international relations.

We proceeded with ASEAN’s origin and the ASEAN way. Since ASEAN is a diplomatic association, it cannot ‘concretely’ intervene in the affairs of the member states. This is one aspect that this regional grouping should be able to deal with as it evolves over time. It intervenes in conflicts through sheer diplomacy, although during the time of President Sukarno of Indonesia, he did some “coercive diplomacy”. There are questions as to whether this still can be done.

ASEAN is faced with territorial conflicts in the face of globalization, a new form of terrorism with destructive weapons, weapons of mass destruction, environmental problems, terrorists and terrorist organizations that are highly organized, and so forth. It is in this broadness of theme and scope that this paper will begin with.


This dissertation will focus on the literature on the ASEAN, the ASEAN Regional Forum or ARF, and Japan’s role and active participation in this regional grouping. There is an extent of literature covering ASEAN and Japan’s defence initiatives to include Ballistic Missile Defense, weapons of mass destruction, terrorism and terrorist organizations that have been wreaking havoc to the member countries of the ASEAN.

It is the objective of this paper to provide a review of the vast literature, and then conduct an analysis of the literature in order to arrive at a possible conclusion and recommendation.


The scope of this paper will cover the historical background of the ASEAN as this was formed by the member countries from the Southeast Asia. At first, there was the Association of South East Asia, but later it evolved into the ASEAN which was originally formed of five member countries. Many other challenges of the ASEAN and the ASEAN Regional Forum will also be discussed here, for instance, environmental problems, terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, the Ballistic Missile Defense Program, and so forth.

Japan’s foreign policy and its role in the ASEAN Regional Forum are also part of the scope of this paper.

Research Methodology

Methodology consists of a review of the literature which can be from books, journals, and the internet. Studies and researches of different authors can be sourced from the university library, online library and other print materials. There is an availability of the literature on the ASEAN and the ASEAN Regional Forum, the background of the member countries, cultural differences and diversity, and Japan’s role in this regional grouping.

From the vast amount of literature, the next step is to simplify things focusing on Japan’s experience and influence in the ARF, as well as the ASEAN countries’ initiatives in fighting other forces that deter their progress and development.

Establishment of Asean Regional Forum

The post-Cold War period saw changes in the study of international relations and this was “the reappraisal of regionalism”. Scholars suggested the term “new regionalism.” Norman Palmer (qtd. in Sudō 7) confirmed: “the new regionalism is more than just a revival of the old, and it is becoming a significant new factor in international relations.”

Referring to the new regionalism, Andrew Hurrell (qtd. in Sudō) identified four characteristics:

  1. “The emergence of North and South regionalism,
  2. A wide variation in the level of institutionalization,
  3. Its multidimensional character, and
  4. A marked increased in regional awareness or regional consciousness.” (Sudō 7)

This concept on the new regionalism was further reinforced by Hadi Soesastro’s (qtd. in Sudō 7) explanation which says: “One important characteristic of this new regionalism, which is clearly spelled out in the politico-security realm, is the principle of inclusiveness, namely the inclusion of the very sources of uncertainty themselves in the regional arrangement concern.”

Regionalism is an important aspect of globalization as there are linkages between the advent of a new regionalism and the globalization process.

We take this concept of new regionalism in comparing Japan in relation to South East Asia. Japan’s improved relations with Southeast Asia and the ASEAN began with the promulgation of the so-called Fukuda Doctrine on August 18, 1977. Japan-ASEAN relations were treated as a “special” item on the agenda in the midst of celebrations of the twentieth anniversary of ASEAN when Prime Minister Noboru Takeshita attended the third ASEAN Summit held in Manila in December 1987. Through active interaction, Japan-ASEAN relations have become highly institutionalized, for instance with the de rigueur visit to the region by Japan’s top leaders. (Sudō 34)

Prime Minister Fukuda was elected on December 23, 1976 and this marked the beginning of Japan’s new South East Asian policy with its special emphasis on the ASEAN. Fukuda came into office with clearly defined domestic and foreign policy objectives. His external policies could be epitomized by his support for three concepts: first Japan’s becoming an economic superpower without military power; second the interdependent world community and Japan’s responsibility to it; and third, a sense of the world economic crisis and Japan’s ability to contribute to world economic recovery and toward solving the North-South problems. (Sudō 35-36)

One aspect of Fukuda’s objectives was cultural: he had been advocating new cultural relations with South East Asia, emphasizing Japan’s non-military role and the need to construct better relations based on mutual trust and a better understanding of each other’s cultures.

It was perceived that existing Southeast Asian policy was not working. The reasons for this were that:

  1. anti-Japanese movement in 1974 was a decisive counterblow to Japan’s resource-based diplomacy;
  2. the end of the Vietnam war in 1975 and American withdrawal from the region necessitated Japan’s reappraisal of its policy orientation, which was under the realms of the United States. In other words, the power vacuum in South East Asia required a new role for Japan in the region; and
  3. ASEAN as a regional organization was becoming a full-fledged player in the region, exemplified by its first Summit in 1976, and it expected strong Japanese support, especially economic support. (Sudō 36)

The promulgation of the Fukuda Doctrine in 1977 served as a catalyst in strengthening Japan-ASEAN relations to the extent that could not have been imagined before the Doctrine. The beginning of ASEAN’s second decade seemed to be accentuated by the Fukuda Doctrine. (Sudō 41)

This reality reinforces Japan’s role in the current ASEAN Regional Forum.

ASEAN’s Origins

Generally speaking, ASEAN is a diplomatic association of the countries of Southeast Asia whose primary aim and objective is to avoid or minimize conflicts among its member countries, and how to manage and deal with conflicts. Narine argues that ASEAN is “not a security alliance” (4). ASEAN has a broader concept and meaning. This will be explained further.

Before the establishment of ASEAN, relationships between countries in the region were not quite good, and there have been few regional conflicts. Sour relationship among states resulted in the formation of the Federation of Malaysia in1963 – this consisted of Malaya, Singapore, Sabah and Sarawak. Sukarno, the first president of Indonesia, opposed the Federation, and so he started a policy of confrontation through “coercive diplomacy” and “small-scale armed activities” (Emmers 11).

Another source of regional antagonism resulted from the Philippines’ claim to the British colony of North Borneo (Sabah). The integration of Sabah in the new federation strained diplomatic relations between Manila and Kuala Lumpur. Diosdado Macapagal, Philippine President from 1961 to 1965, pressed the Philippines’ territorial claim to Sabah and challenged the legitimacy of Malaysia. Then, after an election, Ferdinand Marcos succeeded Macapagal, slowed down Manila’s claim to Sabah, although it was never abandoned. Bilateral relations between Malaysia and the Philippines were normalized in June 1966. (Emmers – Cooperative Security 11)

The establishment of ASEAN led to a transformation in the regional political environment. There was a change in the political leadership in Indonesia when the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) mounted a coup in October 1965 resulting in bloodshed. Sukarno was replaced by Lt General Suharto on 11 March 1966, starting a new era in Indonesian politics known as the New Order, which was a pro-Western with an anti-communist political orientation. (Emmers – Cooperative Security 12)

A starting process of reconciliation between Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur made regional cooperation possible and desirable as a means to avoid future confrontation. Talks on regional cooperation were started in the spring of 1966 between Malaysia’s Deputy Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak, Indonesian Foreign Minister Adam Malik and Thai Foreign Minister Thanat Khoman. Normalization of Indonesian-Malaysian relations started to surface. On this regard, Suharto influenced the negotiations by supporting a pragmatic foreign policy based on regional cooperation and domestic economic development. (Emmers – Cooperative Security12)

The Association of Southeast Asia (ASA) was created in Bangkok in July 1961 as an instrument to advance dialogue between Thailand, Malaya and the Philippines. Indonesia had refused to take part, viewing ASA as a Western-aligned organization, although ASA had been “primarily designed to promote regional consultation and intra-mural stability in the interest of domestic regime security” (Emmers – Cooperative Security 12).

The ASA was followed by another inter-state grouping consisting of Malaya the Philippines and Indonesia, known as Maphilindo; it was a loose confederation and short-lived (Emmers – Cooperative Security 12).

ASEAN was launched and adopted through the Bangkok Declaration of August 1967, carrying the inherent cooperative security premises and structure of ASA. Its original members were Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. The motivation for ASEAN was based not only on regional reconciliation but as a response to an advancing communist threat in Indochina and a related fear of internal communist insurgencies. The countries in ASEAN were also concerned of the consequences of the Chinese Cultural Revolution and its direction or influence on these countries.

In the Declaration document, the countries concerned established the different machineries for its implementation, such as the Annual Meeting of Foreign Ministers, a Standing committed which would be chaired by the Foreign Minister of the host country or his representative, ad hoc committees and other committees, and a National Secretariat in each member country (Koh 5).

The ASEAN also aimed to “accelerate the economic growth, social progress and cultural development in the region, and promote regional peace and stability through abiding respect for justice and the rule of law in the relationship among countries of the region” (Emmers – Cooperative Security13).

The creation of the ASEAN was an attempt to address the climate of regional relations through a mode of conflict avoidance rather than preventive diplomacy or dispute resolution. “The Association relied on dialogue and aimed to form a web of bilateral and regional relations” (Emmers – Cooperative Security 17).

There were efforts to institutionalize a process of consultation rather than concrete confidence-building measures between states that sill held stronger ties with their former colonial masters than with their direct neighbours. The 1967 Declaration reaffirmed the sovereignty of the member states and demanded respect for the principles of the United Nations (UN) Charter. Hence, ASEAN was during these early years an informal exercise in confidence building. (Emmers – Cooperative Security 17)

ARF Processes: The ASEAN Way

The “ASEAN Way” is a ‘style’ of diplomacy or an unwritten code of conduct that evolved in many intra-ASEAN relations. ASEAN is a culturally-diverse group, and from this grouping also evolved such regional institutions as the ASEAN Regional Forum and the ASIA-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) “by virtue of ASEAN’s special role within them” (Capie and Evans 14).

The ASEAN Way “contributes to limiting the application of human security and thus the resolution of internal conflicts in Southeast Asia” (Nishikawa 214).

It was borne out of “the desire to avoid confrontation and acrimony in international relations and the importance of low-key, consensus-based diplomacy” (Capie and Evans 14).

“Problems in the region need Asian solutions containing Asian values, and one of these values was the use of “very low-key diplomacy [which] avoids fanfare before an agreement is reached”1.

Preference for informality is ASEAN’s signature in diplomatic relations. In contrast to an entity such as the European Union (EU), ASEAN has only a modest bureaucratic apparatus, although its Jakarta-based Secretariat has expanded its role in recent years. The ARF has no permanent staff or Secretariat, and the APEC Secretariat in Singapore is small. ASEAN representatives described it as a “dialogue forum” rather than a multilateral security mechanism (Capie and Evans 15).

A similar preference for less formal language has affected the ARF’s processes. Sessions were termed inter-sessional working groups. China opposed to the wordings which “smacked of thicker institutionalization” and so they agreed on the term inter-sessional support groups or ISGs and inter-sessional support meetings. (Capie and Evans 15)

The preference of the “ASEAN way” for informality can also be seen in the association’s use of consultative processes such as “habits of dialogue” and non-binding commitments rather than legalistic formulae and codified rules.

Khong Yuen Foong comments: “ASEAN officials have contrasted their approach to [those] that emphasize legal contracts, formal declarations, majoritarian rules, and confrontational negotiating tactics.” (Capie and Evans 15)

Neither the APEC nor the ARF has adopted formal dispute settlement mechanisms. APEC proponents explicitly rejected calls for the establishment of a regional dispute settlement mechanism. They did not see a need for “highly legalistic” procedures such as those of the World Trade Organization (WTO) or General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). Instead, it called “for the creation of a voluntary, consultative dispute mediation service” (Capie and Evans 16).

Despite the disregard for formalistic approaches to institution-building, the number and meetings and working groups co-ordinated by ASEAN, APEC, ASEM (Asia-Europe Meeting), and the ARF is considerable. ASEAN organizes close to 300 official meetings annually. (Capie and Evans 16)

ARF inter-sessional meetings have also become commonplace. Since 1999, ARF delegations have been expanded, allowing defence officials to meet with their counterparts over a working lunch at ARF meetings. There is also the emergence of a burgeoning stream of intra-East Asian multilateralism.

Another “ASEAN way” feature is the principle of inclusivity: this is bringing both like-minded and non-like-minded participants into dialogue. It was envisaged that non-minded states such as Soviet Union, China, North Korea, and Vietnam, should be included in future regional security dialogue.

One of the most important elements of the “ASEAN way” is its particular use of consensus. Some accounts trace the origins of ASEAN’s deeply-rooted preference for consensus to Javanese village culture, in particular to its twin notions of musyawarah and mufakat.

Herb Faith (Capie and Evans 19) described musyawarah as a “psychological disposition on the part of the members to give due regard to the larger interests”.

It is a process of discussion and consultation, which at the village level meant the leader should not act arbitrarily or impose his will, but rather “should make gentle suggestions of the path the community should follow, being careful always to consult all other participants fully and to take their views and feelings into consideration before delivering his synthesis conclusions.” (Capie and Evans 19)

Development of the ARF

The Cambodian Conflict

A brief historical background of the Cambodian conflict will tell us how the ASEAN worked from the start. ASEAN’s involvement in Cambodia was problematic. Vietnam argued that the Cambodian conflict was merely an internal dispute that “no external party has any locus standi to intervene”. But for ASEAN, the Vietnamese occupation posed varying threats to regional security and was a blatant violation of the international, and in particular, “ASEAN’s norms on non-use of force and non-interference in domestic affairs” (Caballero-Anthony 113).

However, ASEAN lacked the capacity to intervene in the conflict: it had no mediating role. It became a bit worse when the conflict became less manageable and more intractable when major powers were involved but there was no co-operation on the part of the players. The United States refused to recognize the Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea (CGDK) forces, and China became less hostile to Vietnam. The conflict became much more complex when ASEAN found itself having to accommodate the positions of the major powers vis-à-vis the positions of the warring Cambodian factions. More so, there were conflicting interests among ASEAN members.

In 1989, a new era began in Southeast Asia with Vietnam’s withdrawal of forces from Cambodia and the accompanying reduction of tensions in the region. The United States began to reduce its military presence for purposes of regaining control of economic deficits and readjusting “overstretched” commitments abroad. In February 1990, Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney disclosed a major reduction plan for American forces in Japan, South Korea, and the Philippines, which was known as the “East Asia Strategic Initiative”. (Sudō 16)

ASEAN’s experience in the Cambodian conflict reflected a certain pattern of managing conflict through dialogue and consensus, on accommodation of various interests, and on norm- and community-building (Caballero-Anthony 114).

This particular experience of ASEAN, coupled with several developments that were taking place in and outside the region, provided a meaningful background to the establishment of a new form of conflict management mechanism that reflected the type of mechanisms that ASEAN developed over time. This new mechanism was the establishment of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF).

Processes in the ARF

The ASEAN Regional Forum is an “extensive inter-governmental grouping, which focuses on dialogue and confidence-building measures as a first step in promoting cooperative security” (Emmers – Cooperative Security 10).

ASEAN and the ARF are inter-state arrangements that address the climate of international relations through dialoguing in contrast to problem solving. ASEAN is a diplomatic association for political and security cooperation that concentrates on conflict avoidance and management driven initially by the goal of regional reconciliation.

The ASEAN Ministerial Meetings signed and released the ASEAN Regional Forum concept paper in 1995 noting the new climate of peace and prosperity that the region was experiencing: guns had become silent; there was a growing trend to enhance dialogue on political and security cooperation, and the dynamism of the region in terms of economic growth, and so forth. The concept paper expressed the challenged of the ARF which was “to sustain and enhance this peace and prosperity” (Concept Paper qtd. in Koh 51).

ASEAN is the primary motivator of the ARF, but a successful ARF requires full cooperation from all its members. Challenges of the ARF include preserving and enhancing peace and prosperity in the region. During the early years of the ARF, there was perceived rapid economic growth amongst the member countries, and it was noted that this could bring along shift in power relations that may lead to conflict. There is also the diversity of the ASEAN.

Countries in the region have territorial disputes, and ARF should know how to manage a situation where things might go wrong. The Concept paper recommended confidence building measures, development of preventive diplomacy mechanisms and conflict-resolution mechanisms as a way of dealing with the challenges. Moreover, the ARF should concentrate on enhancing the trust and confidence of participants in the region.

On the other hand, APEC has been referred to as a “consultative mechanism” to clearly distinguish it from an “economic community”, a term that has obvious European connotations.

Multilateralism in ASEAN

“In discussing multilateralism, ASEAN and the ARF are referred to as inter-state arrangements that seek to address the climate of international relations through the vehicle of dialogue as opposed to problem solving. As examples of cooperative security both institutions are promoting the notion of security cooperation ‘with others’ as opposed to ‘against others’” (Emmers – Cooperative Security 10).

Japan has two major East Asian multilateral foreign and security policy options. The first is the existing ASEAN/ARF structure, which now includes most of the nations of East, Southeast, and Southern Asia. The second is any future Northeast Asian Security forum in which Japan chooses to participate.

Multilateralism can benefit a lot on the ASEAN/ARF. The Japanese foreign policy strongly agrees to multilateralism; even the Japan Communist Party recommends it. Representative Mitsuo Higashinaka, the JCP’s leading foreign-policy expert, commented that multilateral efforts should be a priority of Japanese foreign policy, provided the forums are neutral, as ASEAN and ARF are. (Cooney 118)

But there were hindrances in multilateralism – extreme diversity in economic and political systems and strategic perspectives. Some attempts were made to introduce multilateralism. This was the introduction of alliances, such as the ANZUS Treaty in September 1951, signed by the United States, Australia and New Zealand; the South-East Asia Collective Defence Treaty, or Manila Pact, of September 1954 and its institutional structure, the South-East Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO), created in February 1955, which was then characterized by security undertakings with military dimension (Emmers – Cooperative Security 30).

Single-issue multilateralism or ad hoc multilateralism was coined by Robert Scalapino (qtd. in Capie and Evans 11) “to describe mechanisms developed to deal with specific security problems in Eastern Asia before the creation of an effective regional security institution. Particularly, this was used to describe multilateral responses to security problems on the Korean peninsula and in Cambodia” (Capie and Evans 11).

Scalapino’s use of the term focused on North Korea’s threat to withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Scalapino argued that in the absence of a permanent peacemaking or peacekeeping institution in Northeast Asia, ad hoc multilateral arrangements limited to particular issue areas had to be organized to deal with this crisis. Ad hoc multilateralism can be used to focus on a single problem or issue area, and membership tends to be restricted to parties with a close link to the matter at hand, although these do not necessarily need to be states (Capie and Evans 11).

Multilateralism for security cooperation amongst member countries in East Asia became more in demand at the close of the Cold War, because of the increasing interdependence and “uncertain security environment” in the area. Models of security cooperation were suggested, and one of these was Mikhael Gorbachev’s Vladivostok declaration suggesting an Asia-Pacific equivalent to the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), that led to the Helsinki Final Act of 1975. Further suggestions were made at the ASEAN-PMC held in Jakarta in July 1990, wherein the foreign ministers of Australia and Canada, namely Gareth Evans and Joe Clark, respectively, made suggestions for the staging of an Asia-Pacific conference on security and cooperation. This multilateral security cooperation became an extension of the ASEAN model to the wider region. (Emmers – Cooperative Security 30)

Jusuf Wanandi (qtd. in Anwar 37) wrote that “there was a need for ASEAN to develop a multilateral military cooperation which is defensive in nature.” ASEAN could seek assistance from Japan both in acquisition of technology and financing. ASEAN military co-operation could be specifically directed to guard and secure the sea lanes of communication (SLOCs) in Southeast Asia from pollution, collision, or piracy.2

Fortuna Anwar added that this can be considered as a sub-system within the wider ARF, in the same way that the bilateral alliances between the United States and Japan or between the United States and South Korea, or the multilateral alliances of the Five Powers Defence Arrangement, can be regarded as sub-systems within the regional framework (37).

In July 1992, the first discussions on regional security were held at the ASEAN-PMC in Manila upon the urging by Tokyo and Washington. Later, an ASEAN-PMC Senior Officials Meeting (SOM) was organized in Singapore in May 1993.

The foreign ministers of the ASEAN countries and of the seven dialogue partners – namely Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Canada and the EU – decided at the meeting to invite the foreign ministers of China, Russia, Vietnam, Laos and Papua New Guinea to a special meeting of the ASEAN foreign ministers. The founding dinner of the ARF was held in Singapore on 25 July 1993 and it was agreed that the first working session would take place in Bangkok one year later. The Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific (CSCAP) was created “to promote security cooperation through non-governmental efforts” (Emmers – Cooperative Security 31).

There was a need for the establishment of the ARF. Motivations for its establishment are:

  1. Changes in the regional strategic environment forced the member countries to re-think their security approach. Ralf Emmers says: “This primarily resulted from the external origins of post-Cold War security challenges and the strategic and economic interdependence linking their sub-region to the rest of the Asia-Pacific” (Emmers – Cooperative Security 31).
  2. The ARF was seen by the ASEAN states as an instrument to “engage Beijing in a comprehensive fashion in a stable regional international system” (Emmers – Cooperative Security 31).
  3. The ASEAN member states saw ARF as significant after the Cold-War, and also sought to develop or define its role in Southeast Asia through the ARF formation. This strategic formation was seen as dependent on a Chinese-Japanese-US triangle, and the member states did not want to be excluded from it. (Emmers – Cooperative Security 31)

Security Overview in Asia-Pacific Region

The situation in the Asia-Pacific region has often been referred to by Chinese officials and academics as a “Cold War mentality”. This mentality was described by Chinese participants at the second Canada-China Seminar (CANCHIS) held in Toronto, in January, 1998, as a “perception during the Cold War era, stemming from the confrontation of the two blocs and the competition of the two superpowers to seek world hegemony …” (Capie and Evans 45).

The perception during the Cold War era was that national security should be attained through military superiority.

“Four decades of Cold War was characterized by confrontation and rivalry between the USSR and the United States” (Capie and Evans 45).

As changes in international relations continued to emerge, the “USSR disintegrated and the United States weakened”, fortunately ending the Cold War, but did not end the Cold War mentality. Hegemonism and power politics in the Asia-Pacific region continued to linger, with some countries interfering in the internal affairs of other countries. Chinese officials have often used the term Cold War mentality in criticizing the United States, in particular US alliances in the Asia-Pacific. “This criticism grew especially strident following the release of the revised guidelines governing security co-operation between the US and Japanese forces in the ‘areas surrounding Japan in 1996” (Capie and Evans 46).

Cold War mentality is linked to terms such as “preventive containment, constraint, conditional engagement” (Capie and Evans 46), and so forth.

Since the end of the Cold War, there has been a convergence of security challenges in Southeast Asia and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) world, although differences in scope and approaches to tackling the challenges remain. Territorial disputes and arms races have subsided.

Security risks now involve such dangerous crimes as international terrorism and organized crime, separatism and piracy, irregular migration, poverty, environmental issues, energy shortages, economic crises, human trafficking, and so forth. There also diseases that have catapulted into pandemics like HIV/AIDS and SARS, natural disasters such as the devastating tsunami that hit the coastal areas of Sumatra, Malaysia, Thailand and Burma/Myanmar on 26 December 2004.

Countries in the Asia-Pacific had to cope with the rising tide of globalization, and their respective governments had to prioritize economic developments. Japan, China, and India and other developing countries may be benefitting from globalization. They pursued policies that would attract investors and capital, and also provided resources for enhancing military power. There is also the emergence of increasing interdependence brought about by globalization. (Rüland 545-546)

In January 1992, ASEAN succeeded in convening another summit, consolidating the new regionalism in South East Asia. This fourth Singapore summit produced four tangible agreements, as stipulated in the Singapore Declaration. That is, the ASEAN heads of government agreed to:

  1. Further talk political and economic cooperation to secure regional peace and security;
  2. Safeguard its collective interests to cope with the challenges posed by other large and powerful economic groupings;
  3. Seek avenues to engage member states in new areas of cooperation in security matters;
  4. Forge closer relations based on friendship and cooperation with the Indochinese countries, following the settlement of the Cambodian conflict. (Sudō 19)

Accordingly, since the fourth ASEAN Summit, ASEAN has come to emphasize the following policies with which it can play a greater stabilizing role in the region: economic integration, and extra-regional and security cooperation. (Sudō 19)

Ballistic Missile Defense

Swaine, Swanger and Kawakami explained that Ballistic Missile Defense originally emerged in the early years of the Cold War as part of manipulations between the United States and the Soviet Union. There was this thinking or concept that ballistic missiles could be intercepted while on its way to its destination – hence the term ballistic missile defense. The concept emanated from a system of security known as “active defense” rather than “mutual assured destruction” (MAD) by offensive forces. (1)

Ashton Carter asks these intriguing questions:

Why does so natural and seemingly so compelling a goal as national defense against nuclear missile attack provoke controversy? And how does so arcane and technical a subject as ballistic missile defense (BMD) – dealing with radars, interceptor missiles, and the like – become a touchstone for competing strategic, political, and moral ideas about the role of nuclear weapons? (1)

In the 1960s, there were still technological constraints, added with political considerations, to the development and deployment of missile defense systems. But in the 1970s, this again came up but was rejected due to some negotiations emerging between Washington and Moscow. There was the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty of 1972 and its 1974 protocol which allowed “the United States and USSR to construct only token ‘regional defense’ ballistic missile defense systems against limited ballistic missile attacks” (Swaine, Swanger and Kawakami 1).

In the early 1980s, the Reagan administration initiated an ambitious BMD system, this time known as Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) aimed at protecting the United States against virtually any type of strategic ballistic missile attack. If it had materialized, it could have rendered nuclear weapons ‘impotent and obsolete’. But problems arose due to its excessive cost, technological uncertainties, and its adverse impact on arms control negotiations with the then Soviet Union. The SDI program ended due to the collapse of the Soviet Union. (Swaine, Swanger and Kawakami 2)

The issue and attractiveness of ballistic missile defense systems again came up in the early 1990s – this was during the 1991 Persian Gulf War which needed designs to protect US forces and allies overseas.

Seven factors led to the reemergence of serious interest in national missile defense (NMD) in the United States in the mid-1990s:

  1. The spread of advanced military technology has made it possible for a growing number of countries to acquire, by indigenous production or importation, basic ballistic missile systems and matching conventional and unconventional warheads, including weapons of mass destruction (WMD) – chemical biological, and possibly nuclear weapons.
  2. These missile-related capabilities were being developed or acquired by countries like North Korea, Iran, Iraq, and Libya. This could truly complicate US strategic defense, especially if such missiles are WMD-armed.
  3. The danger of ballistic missiles being used against US forward-based forces, allies, and friends was demonstrated by Iraq’s use of short-range ballistic missiles against the United Nations coalition forces during the 1991 Gulf War and by North Korea’s development of medium-range ballistic missiles in the 1990s. Pyongyang also tried to develop (or might have developed) long-range missile capable of striking US territory. (Swaine, Swanger and Kawakami 2)
  4. The development of ballistic missile technology by countries with financial and political incentives to export has further accelerated the proliferation of ballistic missile systems, technologies, and components in recent years. For some observers, the increased availability of ballistic missile technology on the world market has arguably increased the chance that both larger numbers of states and even nonstate actors (such as terrorist organizations) might acquire ballistic missiles in the near to medium term. (Swaine, Swanger and Kawakami 3)
  5. The breakup of the former Soviet Union, Russia’s ongoing, severe economic malaise and resulting internal political and social unrest, and the concomitant deterioration of Russia’s armed forces have increased the possibility of an accidental or “rogue” launch of long-range ballistic missiles deployed on the territory of the former Soviet Union. (Swaine, Swanger and Kawakami 3)
  6. In the Asia-Pacific region, the potential dangers posed by North Korea’s growing ballistic-missile and WMD capabilities are compounded by the modernization and expansion of China’s ballistic missile force, including larger numbers of more capable short-, medium-, and possibly even long-range missiles. There is also the ever-growing tension over the Taiwan issue and China’s use of short-range ballistic missiles during the Taiwan Strait crisis of 1995-1996. (Swaine, Swanger and Kawakami 3)
  7. During the past 15 years, significant advances have occurred in some of the technologies required to construct at least a limited ballistic missile defense system and its accompanying supporting infrastructure, including sensors, rocket motors, radars, and guidance systems. The Patriot missiles during the Gulf War, though a bit ineffective, still proved its worth and made the coalition together. (Swaine, Swanger and Kawakami 3)

Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction

After the destruction of New York’s World Trade Center on 11 September 2001, focus on the war on terror turned to Southeast Asia. Washington announced that Southeast Asia was the second front in the global war on terrorism. Philippines President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo called for direct American military assistance in rooting out the Abu Sayyaf Muslim terrorist bandit gang in her country’s far south. (Weatherbee 1)

The Abu Sayyaf kidnap group has been terrorizing Mindanao and other areas of the South, kidnapping innocent civilians and foreigners, and even beheading their victims. The United States has been sending its Army troops in helping – in the form of training and technical assistance – the Philippine Armed Forces in combating the kidnap-for-ransom gangs. Recently, some victories have been attained with the killing of a known leader with some of his followers. Albader Parad, an Abu Sayaff commander with a $5 million bounty offered by the United States government, was recently killed. This is a major victory of the Philippine government’s war on terror. (Alipala)

The bandit group was responsible for the kidnapping of three International Red Cross volunteers in January 2009 who were later freed after allegedly paying ransom money. The Philippines is also facing a decades’ old communist insurgency led by the National Democratic front leader Jose Maria Sison who is currently in exile in the Netherlands; the NDF has its armed wing the New People’s Army that has been fighting the Philippine government for decades now.

Countries in Southeast Asia followed suit in combating or denying terrorist groups in their area. Malaysia and Singapore used their long-standing internal security acts to round up hundreds of suspected terrorists. The bombing in Bali, Indonesia that killed two hundred foreigners and Indonesians in October of 2002 confirmed that Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda terrorist network had in fact linked up with Indonesia’s own radical Islamists. Indonesia became a battleground in the war on terrorism. (Weatherbee 1)

Thailand’s former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra made a false step by initially suggesting neutrality in the war, but quickly reversed himself, declaring Thailand an ally. Thailand is also a terrorism battled field.

American President George W Bush confirmed the primacy of counterterrorism for U.S. interests in Southeast Asia during his October 2003 visits to Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand on his itinerary for the 2003 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit meeting (Weatherbee 1).

Moreover, there’s a new kind of war in this war on terror – a shadowy network of individuals and groups deliberately directing deadly force against innocent civilians, led by Muslim extremists under the direct or indirect hand of Osama bin Laden. The American war against al Qaeda and the Taliban had wide support, but Malaysia and Indonesia openly opposed American policy in Iraq, and only Singapore and the Philippines expressly supported it. (Weatherbee 2)

The United States’ involvement in South East Asia reflects broad areas of political, economic, and cultural international interests. This is because of the long history of American involvement.

As human beings have the responsibility to protect themselves, so do governments around the world.

The principle of the responsibility to protect has been endorsed by the governments of the member countries. This is the principle that binds a government to protect its people from genocide or atrocities, and that the international community should help in the fulfillment of this obligation.

This principle of R2P was endorsed by the UN General Assembly in 2005 and unanimously reaffirmed in 2006 by the UN Security Council in Resolution 1674. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (2007) identified the challenged of translating R2P ‘from words to deeds’ as one of the cornerstones of his term of office. (Bellamy and Davies 547)

The principle of R2P has become part of the working language of international engagement with grave humanitarian crises: the Security Council referred to R2P in mandating the Un-African Union hybrid mission for Darfur (UNAMID) and both Kofi Annan and Ban Ki-moon used R2P in relation to their diplomatic efforts to resolve the post-election conflict in Kenya. (Bellamy and Davies 548)

Dr. Yoichi Funabashi says3:

Terrorism threatens a great number of lives in the culturally and ethnically diverse societies of the Asia-Pacific with the potential for religious polarization.

Economic and political disparities in the respective countries have long been the Achilles’ heel in building viable regional cooperation ever since the days of Gunnar Myrdal’s “Asian Drama: An Inquiry into the Poverty of Nations” published in 1968 and now Asia anxiously anticipates the advent of political Islam, in Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines, as the activities of extremist Islamic groups increase in prominence. (Funabashi 1-2)

The further the US has pressed ahead with its war on terror, the more hatred it has encountered and the more it has opened itself up as a target for terrorists. US-allies feel threatened by the excess of the American reaction (to 911), particularly its inclination to strike pre-emptively and change foreign regimes. They are beginning to feel the danger of being entrapped in US-led wars and feel Washington is taking it for granted they will simply “render services”. (Funabashi 4)

Theorists suggest that in future the US compulsion shall be to negate the priorities of the declining Japan in favour of the rising China. Thus, America’s position and military substantially with potential changes in partnership as Morton Abramowitz and Stephen Bosworth proffer:

“America’s role in the region (East Asia) and its military posture there will look very different at the end of this decade than they did at the start of it…Japan will remain a major economic player in the region for years to come….But its strategic value to the United States, although still great, is declining”. (qtd. in Funabashi 6)

The ambivalent relationship between the US and China whether as strategic partners or strategic competitors, has significant repercussions for Japan and at the same time Japan also fears US-China enmity. Should US-China exchange take a turn for the worst, the result would have an equally grave impact upon the US-Japan alliance. (Funabashi 7)

Territorial Disputes

South East Asia is characterized by a salient maritime and archipelagic geographic profile of historical significance. The states of Southeast Asia, namely Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam – have been characterized as archipelagic states as the seas have interwoven with the land territorial entities.

These states have its share of border and boundary conflicts and disputes, but are characteristically low in intensity conflicts and have always remained in the spectrum of limited and localized disputes. Southeast Asia conflicts have been largely in the political-diplomatic realm and hence they are more disputes than escalating conflicts.

The Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia in 1978 is an exception because it involved a substantial military force. But the Chinese invaded Vietnam in 1979, although it was a limited war for territorial settlement. (Prabhakar 34)

Colonialism has been a dominant force in the region for nearly 300 years. With the exception of Thailand, the other states of Southeast Asia were all colonized – Malaysia, Myanmar and Singapore under British colonial domination, Cambodia and Vietnam under French Colonial rule, Indonesia under Dutch colonial control, and the Philippines under Spanish colonialism and later American domain.

According to Prabhakar, the issue of territorial disputes in terms of border and boundary demarcations is consequential due to the arbitrary colonial demarcation. “Colonial rule in Southeast Asia had its territorial disputes and conflicts but none led to violent conflict with the excessive use of military force” (Prabhakar 54).

The end of colonial rule was hastened by the emerging global bipolar order and the resurgence of Third World nationalism. Colonial rule ended in the late 1960s with the exit of the British, Dutch and French colonial regimes. Colonialism has had a pertinent impact on the region, with one example being the dispute over Sabah that has triggered tensions between Malaysia and the Philippines, as well as between Indonesia and Malaysia. (Prabhakar 35)

The territorial and maritime disputes in the region are as follows:

  • Vietnam-Cambodia border and maritime disputes;
  • Vietnam-China maritime dispute (South China Sea);
  • Vietnam-Philippines-China maritime dispute (Spratly Islands);
  • Thailand-Cambodia border and maritime disputes;
  • Thailand-Myanmar border dispute;
  • Thailand-Laos border dispute;
  • Thailand-Malaysia border dispute;
  • Indonesia-Malaysia border and maritime disputes (islands of Ligitan and Sipadan);
  • Malaysia-China maritime dispute (Spratly Islands);
  • Philippines-Malaysia border and maritime disputes (Sabah);
  • Philippines-China maritime dispute (Spratly Islands);
  • Singapore-Malaysia sovereignty contention and maritime ownership of Pedra Branca/Pulau Batu Putih. (Prabhakar 35-36)

The Spratly Islands are claimed by Brunei, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam while the Paracels have been controlled by China since 1974 and are claimed by Taiwan and Vietnam. The maritime disputes are influenced by economic, strategic and political interests. (Emmers – Maritime Disputes 49)

The free navigation of commercial vessels in the South China Sea is essential for regional and international trade. Moreover, the area is rich in fishery resources and is expected to have oil and gas reserves. Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam are already oil producers but in 1993 China became a net oil importer.

The South China Sea dispute may be examined in the context of the Third United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS III). This was adopted on 30 April 1982 and came into force on 16 November 1994. This was ratified by representatives of the countries of Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, and eventually by Brunei, China and Malaysia in 1996. (Emmers – Maritime Disputes 50)

At their summit in Phnom Penh on 4 November 2002, the ten member-states of the ASEAN and China signed a “Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea” (ASEAN, 2002, qtd. in Tønnesson 55). The declaration however did not establish a legally binding code of conduct, but it is a political statement. Nevertheless, if its terms are respected and further incidents are avoided, this will mark a significant change. The code of conduct is a statement by one major power and a regional organization consisting of ten member-states, of which five have maritime zone claims that overlap with those of China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Indonesia. (Tønnesson 56)


Piracy is a constant feature in the Southeast Asia seas. According to one historian, these early piratical activities formed part of a complex social web which encompassed elements of political and economic competition, and social status. Today, acts of piracy continue to occur in the region and over the last ten years have been increasing in frequency. The attacks may have lessened for the time being, but the trend continues. The gangs continue to inflict violence and fear among the populace.

The Abu Sayaff, a terrorist group with some links to Bin Laden’s Al Qaeda, operates in the southernmost islands of the Philippines. Their source of income is forcibly taking foreigners’ vessels, kidnap and demand ransom for their release. They demand millions of dollars in ransom money, threatening to behead their hostages if ransom is not delivered immediately. (Raymond 62)

There have been reports that the group of Bin Laden has been training and supporting the Abu Sayaff. They continuously change their tactics to evade authorities and air their views through media. They have kidnapped foreigners or tourists and killed some of them, showing no mercy or guilt. They have resorted to kidnapping children, students of an elementary school in Southern Philippines. The government could do nothing, or they are at the mercy of these gangs who threaten to kill their victims once rescues are on the way.

Climate Change

The issues of the economic crisis, the environmental disaster caused by the haze, the humanitarian emergency in East Timor, and the question of enlargement have been the four “E”s of embarrassment for ASEAN. (Tay and Estanislao 3-4)

ASEAN had to deal with the Indonesian forest fires in 1997 and 1998 that blanketed the region with haze pollution. In this environmental crisis, ASEAN seemed ineffective. Another concern is ASEAN’s handling of the East Timor crisis and its inability to take a firm and united stand in dealing with the humanitarian and security crisis that arose after the vote for independence from Indonesia. There’s also the question of the enlargement of the group. There were concerns that ASEAN would be divided into tiers by economics and politics.

Transnational Crimes and Human Development and Security

At the turn of the new millennium, Asia’s economic growth and development along with its myriad ambitious regional projects, including its social and political stability were in question (Bello 1990; economist 2000b, p 93; Jomo 1998, qtd. in Shaw 40).

The September 11 Syndrome of committed transnational terrorists attacking New York in an unanticipated and dramatic manner, plus related bomb blasts in Bali, Dar es Salaam, Mombassa and Nairobi, impacted on these changing definitions of defence and security, deterrence and intervention. The War on Terrorism is now compounded by nuclear stand-offs and a massive deployment of landmines along he borders of India and Pakistan, and North and South Korea. (Shaw 40)

The Asian crises of the late 1990s shook confidence in Asian values and revealed the tenuousness of cooperative links between the region’s economies, polities and societies (Soros 2000, pp 201-34, qtd. in Shaw 41).

The continuing tensions among states, corporations and civil societies point to the imperative of re-examining the erstwhile ‘developmental state’ and learning new lessons from Asia (Stein 1995, qtd. in Shaw 41). Hong Kong and Singapore are the least negatively affected but Indonesia and the Philippines the most (Economist 2000a and 2000b, qtd. in Shaw 42).

There is also the continuing stagnation of the Japanese economy, in contrast to the sustained expansion of that in China, that affects the balance between these regional powers at the turn of the century. Governance draws attention to highly divergent patterns of development among neighbouring island political economies (for example, Java versus Irian Jaya or Luzon versus Mindanao in the Philippines). In other words, forms of globalization have generated opportunities for high-tech ‘islands’ like the Special/Export Processing Zones of coastal China or Bangalore in India.

The sequences and consequences of the conditions in South East Asia are the crucial factors that are determining whether human development and human security are achievable and sustainable in today’s Asia (Acharya and Acharya 2000; Dewitt and Hernandez 2003, qtd. in Shaw 42).

Governance in Asia, as elsewhere in the new century, means the ongoing roles of companies and civil societies as well as states in policy and decision making on all issues, including security (Wolfish and Smith 2000, qtd. in Shaw 42).

The UNDP (1994, p. 22, qtd. in Shaw 42) states that human security is conceptualization and protection from “the threat of disease, hunger, unemployment, crime, social conflict, political repression and environment hazards.”

Shaw further adds that human security is less concerned with national, state or regime security than with basic needs, community, economic, environmental, gender, personal and political securities. These are internal and transnational rather than inter-state, and they can be advanced by a variety of interests and institutions, not just militaries. (Shaw 42)

Effects of Globalization

The tide of globalization has washed up both the best and the worst times for Asia. It has established English as the world’s lingua franca and Asia is by no means an exception. English drives the knowledge economy and Internet and “in South East Asia, the response to globalization is to acquire language skills, not in many languages, but in one, the English language, which is seen as the key to success in the globalization age”4.

The benefits of globalization have harvested a new competitive edge for English speaking Asia; India, Singapore, the Philippines, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Hong Kong. By the end of the 1990s, the global reach of Singapore’s high-tech products, for example, earned the country $60 billion in annual exports, one third more than China. In the Philippines and India, there has been a veritable explosion in the service industry. (Funabashi 8)

Interdependence in international relations can be due to two factors. On the one hand, nation-states and national societies are dependent upon the activities of other states (state interdependence). In this sense, states have been dependent upon each other since the Westphalian system of states emerged. National security has always been dependent upon the decisions of governments in neighboring states – for instance, whether or not to wage war. On the other hand, the effects of given actions by a government may depend on a societal developments that take place outside of its jurisdiction (societal interdependence). For instance, the effectiveness of a national environmental regulation may easily be undermined by increased emissions from outside that country. (Zürn 236)

Natural Disasters

ASEAN countries face natural calamities and disasters like the way they live their natural lives. Common of these disasters are typhoons, earthquakes, tsunamis, and so forth, that plague these nations almost year end and year out. The fact now is that calamities have been aggravated with the increase in climate change and global warming.

The issue of addressing environmental problems is a worldwide concern. The threat posed by climate change and global warming is pushing mother Earth to its near end. The world is now nearing its tragic end, with construction of buildings becoming a race for supremacy amongst big international organisations. Construction sites have posed serious environmental impact. Developing countries in South East Asia sometimes do not have the necessary safeguards against environmental hazards posed by big companies.

In countries concerned with the deterioration of the environment, they have instituted measures to minimize the bad implications of these construction sites. Wastes and hazardous materials come in various forms such as excavation and demolition materials, road building and maintenance materials, worksite waste materials, and so forth. There is also the threat of hazardous materials which are most of the time undeclared by companies involved in the business.

We can just imagine how one site alone can impact the environment; if there is no proper regulation and equal concern, it will exacerbate climate change and global warming. “Polluting the environment has serious and long-term implications for public health.”5

There is also the issue of sustainability. In ASEAN countries, this is a necessity considering that poor countries need programmes for sustainability.

The very science and technology that has been developed to give us the life style that we enjoy now has left us in a position to choose what environmental legacy to hand down to the next generation: environmental sustainability is the best proposition. However, sustainability cannot just be delivered so easily; it has to be hard-earned. For now every single living thing creates environmental impact; it has been found recently that even a small dog or a cat can have an environmental impact.

“Scholars and policy advocates have argued over what combination of voluntary measures, economic incentives, and government regulations represents the best way to control pollutant emissions and other environmental impacts.”6 There have been attempts to solidify their plans such as legislation, but sometimes plans remain as such due to many factors like lack of budgeting – only big companies could do it. What started were simple regulations, but in the UK and Europe they came up with standardization which became the trend.

What is ASEAN doing to include environmental sustainability?

In 4 June 2002, the Joint Ministerial meeting of the ASEAN issued a joint statement on sustainable development. The main point of the Ministerial Meeting was to discuss the key issues of the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD). The Meeting expounded on their Vision:

“…a clean and green ASEAN with fully established mechanisms for sustainable development to ensure the protection of the region’s environment, the sustainability of its natural resources and the high quality of life of its people.” (Joint Statement by the Ministerial Meeting as qtd. in Koh 73)

The Ministers noted that there’s not much that has been done to accomplish the goals of the World Summit on Sustainable Development. Activities of nations continue to disregard the safety and preservation of the world’s natural resources. It is sad to note that the natural resources of the ASEAN have been left unattended considering these natural resources are rich and diverse.

The Minister therefore called for the expeditious implementation of the contents and provisions of the Millennium Declaration and the Monterrey Consensus on Financing for Development. They welcomed the international collaboration for the attainment of Healthy ASEAN 2020 through implementation of the programs and actions embodied in it.

A remarkable provision is imposed in Statement Number 17 which called upon the international community to help in promoting forest management, conservation and sustainable development; address the underlying causes of deforestation and forest degradation, including linking forestry issues with anti-poverty measures; and to promote trade policies that are transparent, and support sustainable forest management, including better market access and fair pricing for forestry products.” (Joint Statement, as qtd. in Koh 76)

Japan’s Role in ARF: Strengthening Security for Everlasting Peace and Prosperity (Policy and Implementation)

Like any other nation, Japan is part of an international community, and any instability in the region will truly affect it and the Japanese people. Likewise, Southeast Asian states are aware of the political developments inside Japan for any implication will affect Tokyo’s foreign policy. (Er 142)

Since 1991, Japan has been playing an active role in promoting a security dialogue in Asia-Pacific region through the establishment of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), and this has been a diplomatic success, according to the Japanese perspective. (Sudō 88)

What can be Japan’s role in resolving conflicts especially the issue of the South China Sea and the Spratly dispute?

Japan aspired for a leadership role in the ASEAN, including a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, and because of this it needs to gain the acceptance and the diplomatic support of the Southeast Asian states. One of its instruments to gain political favour from these states is the Overseas Development Aid (ODA). (Er 143)

At the 1990 Tokyo Conference, Japan tried to promote an agreement among the Cambodian factions to cease armed hostilities. Then in 1991, Foreign Minister Taro Nakayama announced to the Southeast Asian governments at the ASEAN Post-Ministerial Conference publicly advocating multilateral arrangement in Southeast Asia to discuss security issues and regional stability. Although at the first reactions were ambivalent, Southeast Asia welcomed Japan “as a member of the ASEAN Regional Forum that sought to promote confidence-building, institutionalize a habit of consultation, provide greater strategic transparency and peaceful conflict resolution, and to co-opt and socialize China to accept these regional norms” (Er 143).

Aside from the role it played in Cambodia by sending peacekeeping forces, Japan also tried to play a political role to ease tensions in the South China Sea. In February 1995, the Philippines strongly protested at China’s construction of structures on the Philippine-claimed Mischief Reef, which is part of the disputed Spratlys chain in the South China Sea. Tokyo played a diplomatic role by approaching China, urging it to settle the dispute peacefully. This showed that Japan wanted to play a more active diplomatic role in Southeast Asia. Japan’s diplomatic initiatives have been anchored on the framework of the alliance with the United States and the ARF, thus Southeast Asian states seemed comfortable with Japan’s role. (Er 143-144)

However, there are instances where Japan would act not preferable by the ASEAN states. For example, it has refused to endorse the Southeast Asian Nuclear Weapons Free Zone (SEANWFZ) treaty because of American objections (Er 144).

The United States’ concern here is that SEANFWZ would constrain the free passage of its navy through Southeast Asia’s waters. South Pacific and African countries have already promoted the regional nuclear weapons-free zones. And they also expected Japan to do so having suffered a nuclear attack, with its non-nuclear weapons policy. It was clear therefore that Japan were to choose between the United States than the ASEAN states, it would prefer the former.

The Japanese diplomat, Nakatomi Hisashi (qtd. in Er 144), writes about Japan’s regard for the United States over Southeast Asian states:

Japan continues to give top priority to its relationship with the US. Next to the US, it should maintain good relations with Russia, China and the Koreas, because they are important neighbouring countries to Japan. Third, Japan should have good relations with Europe, Canada, Australia and others, since they are its important trading partners. Nations in Southeast Asia, particularly NICs and ASEAN countries, are ranked as important as European countries, because to Japan, they are important not only business but also in security…. We can arrange the countries according to their significance to Japan as follows:

  1. The United States
  2. China, South Korea (and North Korea in the future) and Russia
  3. European countries (including Canada, Australia and others) and the Southeast Asian countries
  4. Others (Er 144-145).

Countries in Southeast Asia recognize that Japan is closer to the United States than to them. Therefore, there remains an unavoidable emotional gap between Japan and its neighbours. (Er 145)

However, Tokyo continues to pursue influence in the region by proposing the institutionalization of a regular summit between the top leaders of Japan and Southeast Asia, and regular bilateral security discussions between Japan and the countries of Southeast Asia.

Japan further sought regional leadership an Asian IMF-type organization (an Asian Monetary Fund) to bolster the Thai baht, Malaysian ringgit and Indonesian rupiah in the wake of speculative attacks against these currencies. (Er 145)

It was a premature move but Tokyo extended US$5 million in financial assistance to Indonesia to help it tide over the currency turmoil.

In the case of cooperation between Tokyo and ASEAN, Tokyo extended environmental assistance to deal with the Indonesia-originated smog (caused by forest fires) that shrouded Kalimantan, Sumatra, Malaysia and Singapore for months, and the disastrous oil spill off the coast of Singapore. (Er 145)

Since 2004, the international community has been endeavoring to fight such threats from complex factors such international terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

Japan makes its move by having an alliance with the United States at the same time having cooperation with the international community

Japan’s foreign policy is based on these main factors:

  1. Its security arrangements with the United States should be of paramount importance;
  2. Its defense capability should be maintained on an appropriate scale; and
  3. Maintaining diplomatic efforts to ensure peace and security towards countries surrounding Japan.

Japan has at present a Treaty with the United States regarding Security Arrangements, which provides for a forward deployment of the US forces in and around Japan. It is important that Japan should uphold and maintain this set-up.

Under the present Japanese Constitution, Japan cannot build up its military power that would threaten other countries, but instead its military build-up should only be defense-oriented.

On its relations with ASEAN neighbors, Japan has maintained healthy diplomatic efforts to ensure the stability of the region as well as its own security and prosperity. Japan has maintained sound relationships with its ASEAN neighbors; maintained close relationships with the United States, and has cooperated with the international community on matters pertaining to diplomacy and regional security.

Japan aims, among others:

  • to take an active role in bilateral and multilateral cooperation to ensure peace and harmony in the region;
  • foster trust with its ASEAN neighbors and other countries through continuous dialogue and diplomatic cooperation;
  • strengthen arms control and non-proliferation agreements with friendly countries;
  • foster diplomatic friendship to avoid conflict with other states by participating in peacekeeping operations; and
  • enhance regional stability through economic cooperation and assistance to other poorer countries within the region.

Japan has invested considerable political capital in Southeast Asia. Even back in the 1950s, Japan made a conscious effort to strengthen its economic ties with the region in the hope of compensating for the loss of the Chinese market. A total of $1.5 billion in war reparations paid from 1955 to 1977 to several countries in the region – Indonesia, the Philippines, Burma, and South Vietnam – facilitated the resumption of Japanese trade.

Since the 1960s, Japan has taken a series of initiatives to launch regional economic cooperation schemes. It played the leading role in establishing the Asian Development Bank (ADB), which began operations in 1966 Japan also took the initiative in convening the Ministerial Conference for Agricultural Development in Southeast Asia in the same year. In 1966, Japan and the United States became leading subscribers of capital. Japan gave a high priority on Southeast Asia by supporting the ASEAN and by initiating economic assistance programs for the countries in the region. (Kawashima 110-111)

Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction

At present, Japan is geared towards peace and prosperity, especially with its significant role in the ASEAN Regional Forum and in the international diplomatic arena. Japan at the turn of the century does not involve itself in any weapon of mass destruction, nuclear or biological.

The Japanese military, however, employed chemical and biological weapons against China during World War II. Croddy and Wirtz argue that there is substantial evidence that Japan also pursued a nuclear weapons research program until 1945 but did not make very much progress (169).

During World War II, Japan was the subject of an atomic bombing by the Allied Forces under the United States of America. It was a perceived solution to shorten the Pacific War; the United States dropped a uranium-235 nuclear device on Hiroshima, and three days later on Nagasaki. Out of a population of 250,000 in Hiroshima, at least 45,000 people died on August 6, many from the thermal and blast effects produced by the weapon. After several months of the bombing, about 20,000 died due to injuries from radiation. In Nagasaki, some 22,000 people died from the initial blast, and another 17,000 or more succumbed to their injuries over the subsequent 4 months. (Croddy and Wirtz 169)

Japan became a target of chemical terrorism involving nerve agent (sarin) in 1994-1995. Cult leader Shoko Asahara ordered his members of the new age cult called Aum Shinrikyo to use improvised chemical weapons against the Japanese authorities – that killed 20 people and injuring more than 1,000. (Croddy and Wirtz 169)

Japan however used chemical and biological weapons in the past. Japan colonized Taiwan, and during the period 1910-1914, the Taiwanese revolted, including those in the mountainous area of Wushe, in central Taiwan. In this incident, Japan used chemical warfare (CW) agents to crush the rebellion led by tribal leader Mona Rudo. Japan had begun production of CW agents in 1928 on Okunoshima Island. In the 1930 uprising, 134 Japanese people were killed by resistance guerillas. Japan crushed the rebellion by using “Green canister” shells (chloracetophenon, or CN), killing 644 indigenous people, which was about half of the community in Wushe. In 1937, the Japanese army employed a wide range of CW agents during its invasion of China, causing thousands of casualties on the Chinese people. In 1991, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (CPLA) claimed that more than 80,000 people were killed in approximately 2,000 chemical attacks by the Japanese army during World War II. (Croddy and Wirtz 170)

The question on proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is still unclear in the minds of analysts. First, this will depend on the political and environmental landscape in the international arena. How will one nation react against rogue states?

For instance, how will Japan react if North Korea becomes a nuclear state? Certainly, East Asia stability in particular will be affected. “North Korea could initiate a domino effect in East Asia” (Prelas and Peck 215). That is why the concern of the United States and the international community.

Japan is an industrial powerhouse with a well-developed nuclear technology. The Japanese have built several nuclear power reactors and they reprocess the spent reactor fuel, which is a major step in producing weapons-grade plutonium. They also have isotope-separation capability and an enormous industrial complex. Nevertheless, they have not developed nuclear weapons because it is against their constitution, and has relied on the 1960 U.S. –Japan Security Treaty as the foundation of its foreign policy and for strategic defense. (Prelas and Peck 215)

If North Korea becomes a nuclear state, there is increasing pressure on Japan to reinterpret Article 9 of its constitution to allow Japan more leeway to defend itself. However, there is a historical animosity between Japan and Korea. Many believe that the people of Japan were originally from Korea, although the Japanese people do not believe in this. Both believe that they were the conquerors of the other around 300 to 700 AD. Archeological findings revealed that people and materials objects moved between Japan and Korea. But evidence showed that Japan mounted a particular brutal invasion of Korea during the 16th century. When Japan annexed Korea in 1910 and remained until the end of World War II, the Japanese tried to eradicate the Korean culture and to replace the Korean language with Japanese in schools. The contempt and bitterness between these two countries still remains in the subconscious of its peoples. (Prelas and Peck 215)

Energy Supply

Japan is highly dependent on imported energy and other resources. It must purchase over 90 percent of the energy it consumes. A large portion of these imports consists of oil, for Japan is more dependent on oil for its total energy requirements than any other Western nation. Oil accounts for more than 78 percent of the nation’s total primary energy supply, and virtually all of it is purchased abroad. Japan has for years sought to relieve its dependence on the Persian Gulf, which supplies 75 percent of its imported crude oil, by decreasing the share of oil in its energy balance and by increasing imports from non-OPEC countries.

SLOC protection is a rationale to build up the level of Japan’s post-war naval capabilities, but this has advantage to the South East Asian countries. This has been used to explore security cooperation with other states in East Asia, Southeast Asia and South Asia. Japan’s anti-piracy involvement has political advantages in its relation with the Asian countries. Japan’s anti-piracy role in the Straits of Malacca offers a confidence-building measure as a security partner to the Southeast Asian states. Japan offers technical and financial aid on this regard. In addition, Japan’s anti-piracy cooperation with the Asian states demonstrates its leadership role in the security to the region. (Graham 236)

With Japan’s economic supremacy in South East Asia, she had made efforts to promoting international cooperation concerning energy saving and the efficient use of energy and development and use of alternative energy sources. With regards to nuclear energy, Japan made efforts to raise international understanding. Japan has also promoted renewable energy to neighboring Southeast Asian countries.

Japan has helped these countries in promoting emergency response measures and shared technological expertise. In March 2002, Japan initiated the Seminar on Energy Security in Asia. In addition, it had promoted and enhanced Asian energy security in international organizations, such as the IEA and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Energy Working Group, and has also been consulting on energy security issues in various fora. (Nakatani 426)

Japan’s energy supply is threatened by several factors:

  1. Political factors – this is because of the instability in the Middle East and the threat of piracy;
  2. Economic factors – Japan lacks bargaining power with the OPEC countries as oil prices continue to be volatile;
  3. Technical factors – Japan’s nuclear energy continues to be threatened by accidents;
  4. Psychological factors – these series of nuclear accidents have caused public alarm and concern;
  5. Environmental factors – Japan has commitment under the Kyoto Protocol to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 6 percent with a specified period. (Nakatani 415-416)

Oil and gas will remain the major energy resources for Japan, but oil will necessitate a shift from oil to other forms of energy such as natural gas.

Japan helps the international oil supply and security by being a member of the International Energy Agency. The IEA promotes the Emergency Sharing System and the application of the Coordinated Emergency Response Measures (CERM).

Japan’s legal framework for oil supply security is supported by the Petroleum Stockholding Law, the Japanese National Oil Corporation and the Petroleum Supply and Demand Optimization Law. (Nakatani 416)

Japan promotes energy diplomacy in South East Asia and the international community to ensure its own energy security and that of its Asian neighbors. The following are very important for Japan’s energy diplomacy:

  • Maintaining and enhancing emergency response measures; maintaining and enhancing friendly relations with oil-producing countries in the Middle East and other countries;
  • Promoting diversification of sources of energy supply;
  • Promoting energy saving, efficient use of energy, and the use of alternative energy;
  • Promoting energy security in Asia; and
  • Promoting environmental issues. ( Nakatani 422)

Climate Change

Japan has made initiatives for the improvement of energy conservation and renewable energy. It has led efforts for a clean and efficient utilization of energy which is vital for protecting the global environment and to minimize climate change. She has provided active support toward further dissemination of energy conservation and new energy technology and measures in the ASEAN countries. These measures are to promote the effective use of the Clean Development Mechanism programme as provided in the Kyoto Protocol.

To augment its need for oil, Japan uses nuclear energy: this is clean energy because it has no greenhouse effect. As of August 2002, Japan has operated 53 nuclear power units, with four still under construction, while 8 units are still being planned. By 2010, Japan has planned to expand nuclear power generation to increase its demand and fulfill its commitments under the Kyoto Protocol.

Japan has maintained its nuclear fuel cycle policy through reprocessed fuel (Nakatani 416).

Environmental sustainability diminishes with economic growth which can be shown through a decline in environmental quality, diminishing biodiversity, and increasing degradation of land, marine and coastal resources, often leading to increased vulnerability to natural disasters caused by frequent climate variability. (United Nations 29)

The UN says that the ASEAN region is responsible for about 3.3 per cent of global CO2 emissions, while its share of the world population is more than double that number (77 per cent). However, some ASEAN countries exceed the world average per capita CO2 emissions by a large margin, with CO2 emissions per capita differing by over 600 times between the strongest and the weakest ASEAN performer. This means that the least polluter countries are gradually increasing their emissions.

Human Development

Japan’s answer to human development in the South East Asian region is the ODA – this has the support of the business community and the public sector. By 1989, this program has transformed Japan into one of the world’s largest donor.

Japan’s aid program emphasizes conditionality, although this is not fully implemented; for example its aid requests are conditional whether the requesting country has some record of military spending or is involved in arms trade, or the development of nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons; and if it has some progress on democratization and market reforms. These conditions are not fully implemented in the sense that Japan aids China, Thailand, and Myanmar. (Fong 187)

ASEAN countries are the largest recipients of ODA, with Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand receiving a big portion of the lion’s share. ASEAN countries are particularly important to Japan because their security and stability are in some way linked to Japan’s own security and stability. These countries supply Japan’s raw material needs.

Other development programs initiated by Japan are the New Asian Industries Development Programme and the ASEAN-Japan Development Fund. The aid programme promotes joint public-private sector activities, targets industrial development and also creates opportunities for Japanese businesses. Many Japanese agencies have helped in the furtherance of this initiative.

The ASEAN-Japan Development Fund was launched in 1987 and has assisted private-sector development such as co-operative activities. (Fong 189)

Japan has also implemented regional projects to support ASEAN cooperation, for example the ASEAN Human Resources Development and Japan-ASEAN Science and Technology Cooperation. This involves high-profile diplomacy and has expanded Japan-ASEAN economic co-operation.

Effects of Globalization

Like the rest of the developed and developing nations, ASEAN countries cannot escape the rising tide of globalization. With Japan, it cannot be said if it has benefitted or not from globalization. Business-wise, most developed or advanced countries, Japan including, benefitted from globalization.

South East Asian countries must continue to look at the economic might of Japan whose influence and commitment have been of major importance in the development of the region. There are nuclear developments in South Asia while India is emerging as a high-tech entrepreneur – these need Japan’s commitment to the stability of the region. (Gungwu xvi)

Economically, proponents of globalization expect it to increase growth, decrease inequality and poverty across people and countries. Politically, socially and culturally, they hope that it will decrease differences, reduce xenophobia and lead to a global consciousness where the nation state is no longer the main unit of identity for individuals. Opponents of globalization or those who oppose it for ideological reasons, argue that the socioeconomic costs of globalization are too high and the benefits are inequitably distributed. Politically, they claim that globalization has simply acted as a vehicle for American hegemony, and to a handful of powerful transnational corporations. (Giusta et al., xiii)

Globalization refers to a situation wherein industrial and commercial companies as well as financial institutions increasingly operate transnationally, in other words, beyond borders.

Japan has contributed to a market-led integration of Asian economies, particularly the ASEAN economies. It has been an attractive place for overseas Filipino workers and other Asian workers who can’t find jobs in their own countries. In the late 1980s, a large number of people including many from the larger labour-surplus ASEAN economies entered Japan – mostly through illegal means like having tourist visas and others as students or foreign trainees. The number of foreigners who had overstayed their visas had risen considerably, mostly coming from three ASEAN countries like Thailand, the Philippines and Malaysia.

In 1991, the Japanese government introduced an international training co-operation organization known as Japan International Trainee Cooperation Organization (JITCO) to provide training for unskilled workers and to serve as intermediary between Japanese companies needing laborers and those labour-sending countries. (Fong 190)

Japanese firms have also gone global, many of its business companies have dominated the global market arena.

Natural Disasters

It is said that Japan is a country located at the “center point” for natural disasters. Typhoons, earthquakes, flooding, tsunamis, landslides, snow avalanches, and both high and low temperatures occur somewhere in the Japanese archipelago nearly every year, and several of the classes of events several times per year. In Japan one can experience seismographic events at some scale, usually minor, but there are also active volcanoes, and saltwater edge communities that have major defenses against storm surges from typhoon-force winds and tsunami events.

Japan is located in the zone of mid-latitudinal westerlies and in monsoon Asia between the Eurasian Continent and the Pacific Ocean. There is also a great deal of activity in the atmospheric conditions, so that typhoons, severe localized rains, and heavy snowfall have inflicted great damage over the centuries. (Sasaki and Yamakawa 163)

The Japanese archipelago is situated in a geologically unstable region where three or four crustal plates collide, so that it is vulnerable to the havoc of both earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

Japan has such considerable experience with natural disasters that anticipation of, response to, recovery from, and planning to mitigate their effects have become a part of the “culture” of living with the natural environment for most Japanese. Hotels are equipped with flashlights for emergency evacuation. Not quite so visible are the building construction specifications that set standards for physical stress and safety design that are among the best in the world. It is a country that has experienced disasters in the past and constantly updates and renews its preparation to address future disasters. It is undoubtedly one of the world’s most prepared countries for natural disasters, largely because of the history of disaster events. (Sasaki and Yamakawa 164)

Japan’s engineering expertise has contributed to other ASEAN countries’ way of dealing with disaster such as earthquakes. This can be done through knowledge sharing.


Countries in South East Asia – before ASEAN – were like orphans: they needed a unifying force, their relationships were not good, and there had been regional conflicts. Japan, as always, was a separate entity from the rest of the ASEAN, although this changed shortly after World War II when it took the role as an economic superpower, second only to the United States.

Japan can take an active part in the ASEAN Regional Forum, mainly as a catalyst or as a leader with objective role for the success of this regional mechanism for management. Since ASEAN is a diplomatic association, Japan can change the course of action in the new millennium and in the age of globalization.

The beginnings of the ASEAN can be traced back to the history of the region, and even though Japan was not part of it, it is a part of the history of this region. Japan knows the workings of the ASEAN like an elder brother to the rest of the member countries. Japan cannot live alone peacefully with his younger brothers going astray.

The ASEAN experience can provide a meaningful background for the ASEAN Regional Forum. The roles of the ASEAN and the ARF maybe diplomatic but they can together shape the international relations of the member countries.

There are many challenges that ASEAN countries face in the age of globalization, and these can be managed with a strong determination to unite to go on without much disunity and conflict. ASEAN can deal with these challenges with the help of Japan, for example fighting terrorists and terrorist organizations, weapons of mass destruction, dealing with environmental problems, territorial disputes, and so forth.

Japan’s Southeast Asian policy was not working in the 1970s due to the anti-Japanese movement, the end of the Vietnam war in 1975 which meant the defeat of the United States Forces, and the emergence of the ASEAN as a full-fledged player in the region. The establishment of ASEAN led to a transformation in the regional political environment.

The establishment of the ASEAN through the Bangkok Declaration was based on regional reconciliation and as a response to an immediate threat – the communist organization which was growing at that time.

Regional conflicts or antagonism continue in the ASEAN region but these cannot be considered as the main source of fully-armed conflict in this century. There are other concerns such as environmental problems and weapons of mass destruction that need immediate and unified attention from all the countries in the region. Though ASEAN is diverse, member countries have some similarities, for example values. The “ASEAN way” is unique compared to other methods of regional organizations – it uses consensus instead of coercion.

As one diplomat says: “Problems in the region need Asian solutions containing Asian values.”

However, in dealing with inter-state conflicts, ASEAN lacks the necessary force; sometimes it could be said that it had no mediating role. This can be seen when ASEAN failed to mediate in the Cambodian conflict. It has also been at the mercy of the powerful nations like the United States. The United States role in the Cambodian conflict and the Vietnam war put the ASEAN into a worthless organization.

ASEAN and the ARF are inter-state arrangements that address the climate of international relations through dialoguing in contrast to problem solving. With ARF and Japan aiding these countries, things could change.

Japan’s Ballistic Missile Defense is in response to the growing arms race amongst nations of the world. This is reasonable on the part of Japan, just as it is reasonable on the part of the United States and other wealthy nations to protect their countries and their people. It is part of the “right to protect” (R2P) clause now being sanctioned by the United Nations and other authoritative international bodies.

The question is “What has this to do with ASEAN?” The answer is blank, or really not much. But as a regional grouping with much to say in this part of the globe, the ASEAN should continue to strive for diplomacy and peaceful negotiations.

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  1. Estrella Solidum, “The Role of Certain Sectors in Shaping and Articulating the ASEAN way”, qtd. in Capie and Evans 14.
  2. Jusuf Wanandi, “Peace and Security in Southeast Asia”, ASEAN ISIS Monitor, Workshop Report (1990), pp. 12-13, qtd. in Anwar 37.
  3. Dr. Yoichi Funabashi’s speech at the Third Asia and Pacific Lecture organized by the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore 2003.
  4. Dr Ruhaya Abhakorn, lecturer in Southeast Asian History, Chiang Mai University, Thailand, quoted in Rahul Goswami “Globalization challenges Asian languages”, Asia Times,2003, qtd. in Funabashi 7).
  5. Watson, M., 2006. Protecting the environment: the role of environmental management systems. p.282.
  6. Andrews, R., 2001. Environmental management systems: history, theory, and implementation research. In C. Coglianese and J. Nash, Regulating From the Inside: Can Environmental Management Systems Achieve Policy Goals? pp. 33.