ASEAN is in danger of becoming marginalized as East Asian security becomes increasingly shaped by such volatile flashpoints as a nuclear North Korea and a South China Sea increasingly dominated by quarrels over sovereignty and maritime security. â€¢ Accordingly, the notion of â€œASEAN centralityâ€ is now being seriously challenged and is unlikely to prevail against the growing bipolar security environment shaped by China and the United States. â€¢ ASEAN and other Asia-Pacific states could gravitate toward one of five alternative order-building scenarios: (i) A Sino-American condominium that defines and accepts each otherâ€™s geopolitical sphere of influence; (ii) The replacement or substantial revision of the United Statesâ€™ bilateral alliance system with the expansion of multilateral norms and instrumentalities; (iii) The gradual predominance of an â€œAsia for Asiansâ€ concept led by China but endorsed by a substantial number of Southeast Asian states; (iv) Effective balancing and hedging by smaller states and â€œmiddle powersâ€, leading to eventual great power acceptance of a regional power equilibrium; (v) An intensification of regional â€œcommunity buildingâ€ via an amorphous but wide-ranging series of economic, ideological and strategic compromises to make war unthinkable and to strengthen regional interdependence. â€¢ However, none of these five scenarios is likely to predominate in a literal sense. Instead, the â€œrealistâ€ explanation for understanding 16-1518 01 Trends_2016-10.indd 7 12/7/16 2:21 PM security in the region is the most accurate forecast for understanding an East Asian security environment that is becoming increasingly disorderly. â€¢ ASEAN can still play a constructive â€” if not central â€” role in shaping East Asiaâ€™s strategic environment by working with China and the United States to strengthen confidence-building in regional security politics and to encourage their respect for strategic constraint.
|Trends in Southeast Asia
|Published - 2015