Bridging alliances and Asia-Pacific multilateralism

Ajin Choi, William Tow

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


    Since the end of the Cold War, a number of efforts have been made to develop multilateral regional security regimes in the Asia-Pacific. Rapidly changing relationships among regional powers have mandated such efforts to transform that region’s predominantly bilateral security architectures to more comprehensive forms of regional order building. Although bilateral alliances led by the United States have significantly contributed to regional security and stability in Asia for many decades, the very complexity of emerging security issues and threats beyond the parameters of bilateral security politics has become increasingly apparent. To cope with these new challenges, states in the region increasingly realize the imperative of working together to achieve conflict avoidance and regional prosperity. In this context, they have become more interested in forming and sustaining multilateral security arrangements. A variety of multilateral security institutions or organizations have beencreated and maintained in the region, and even more ambitious institutionalization has been proposed. Among the existing organizations are the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Regional Forum (ARF) launched by ASEAN in 1994, and the more recent East Asia Summit (EAS) founded in 2005. To date, however, neither of these institutions has fully realized the original criteria underscoring their creation – that is, providing a body of norms that would generate consensus and full adherence by their member states and acting decisively to prevent or to intervene in a regional crisis. Accordingly, individual national political leaders in the Asia-Pacific region have advocated that more comprehensive multilateral security institutions be established. In his inaugural address in 2003, South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun declared “the Age of … Northeast Asia” and proposed building a “community of peace and prosperity,” positioning the Korean peninsula as the hub connecting the Eurasian continent and the Pacific Ocean (Roh 2007: 12). Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd pushed in 2008 for an “Asia-Pacific Community” that would embrace “the entire Asia-Pacific region – including the United States, Japan, China,India, Indonesia and the other states of the region.” Rudd argued that there was a strong need for a multilateral Asia-Pacific institution to “underpin an open, peaceful, stable, prosperous and sustainable region” (Rudd 2008). Not long after the Asia-Pacific Community initiative was tabled, Japanese Prime Minister Hatoyama Yukio presented his vision of an “East Asian Community” – “countries sharing a common vision [to] promote cooperation in various fields … based on the principle of ‘open regional cooperation’” (Hatoyama 2009b). Despite these diverse initiatives, various observers have criticized them asbeing largely impractical. Even those who have supported them have tended to view their significance as largely “functional,” reflecting what they view as the somewhat placid style characterizing the “ASEAN way,” – informal, loosely organized, and seldom leading to concrete results (see Narine 1997; Solingen 2005). Such critics often yearn for the infusion of “more European” approaches to Asia-Pacific multilateralism. What is missing in contemporary Asian multilateral security politics, they believe, is a requisite assimilation of those assets found in the more “mature” European security models such as the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) or the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) political component that has sustained security on the continent where it is still operating a full two decades after the demise of the Soviet Union (Gilson 2002: 122).
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationBilateralism, Multilateralism and Asia-Pacific Security: Contending Cooperation
    Editors William T. Tow and Brendan Taylor
    Place of PublicationAbingdon and New York
    PublisherRoutledge, Taylor & Francis Group
    ISBN (Print)9780415625807
    Publication statusPublished - 2013


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