The position of ASEAN in the Asia-Pacific security system | Статья в журнале «Молодой ученый»

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Рубрика: Политология

Опубликовано в Молодой учёный №20 (258) май 2019 г.

Дата публикации: 17.05.2019

Статья просмотрена: 134 раза

Библиографическое описание:

Лю, Тун. The position of ASEAN in the Asia-Pacific security system / Тун Лю. — Текст : непосредственный // Молодой ученый. — 2019. — № 20 (258). — С. 423-425. — URL: (дата обращения: 07.10.2022).

There has been a momentum in the post-Cold War Asia-Pacific that a new security order, to pursue common security through multilateral cooperation with ASEAN playing a central role, shall prevail in the region. Since the end of the Cold War, the security of the Asia-Pacific has been subject to intense scholarly attention. For some, the region is “ripe for rivalry” (Friedberg, 1993), for others, the region is on the way of forming a proper regional community (Acharya, 2001). Although there is no multilateral institution in place dealing directly with security issues in Asia, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has often been credited with having a pacifying effect in the region because of its initiatives for greater regional cooperation through regional institution building (Beeson, 2009).

Two sets of major developments in recent years are happening in East Asia, which has changed regional security landscape a lot. The first is the US pivot to China strategy. The US pivot to Asia is a “re-arrangement” of its strategy posture and required resources structure (for example, forces deployment, facilities and accesses) in Asia as part of the “rebalancing” of its global priories, commitments and resources (Schiavenza, 2013; Campbell& Andrews, 2013). And the second is China, being a vitally important political and economical actor in the region, plays an important role in shaping the overall regional security environment in the region.

One major problem in the Southeast Asia that draws international attention is the South China Sea disputes. The security concern about Chinese installations on Mischief Reef, the economic interdependence of ASEAN countries with China, and the competition between China and the United States in the Asia-Pacific region, all these shifts in the regional security landscape have limited the space for ASEAN to be an effective player in regional security and weakened the basis for ASEAN-centred multilateral processes and platforms to be central for regional security.

This paper is to explore how ASEAN handle itself in this complicated situation and act as a balance-of-power to give a secure environment for its own development.

Internal security environment of ASEAN

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is a regional organization whose original idea is to seek peaceful settlement of differences or disputes of member states with mutual respect and non-interference in the internal affairs of one another. The Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC) in Southeast Asia, signed at the First ASEAN Summit on 24 February 1976, stated that ASEAN political and security dialogue and cooperation should aim to promote regional peace and stability by enhancing regional resilience. Regional resilience shall be achieved by cooperating in all fields based on the principles of self-confidence, self-reliance, mutual respect, cooperation, and solidarity.

All member states of ASEAN agree to promote regional peace and stability and stick together for the benefit of regional development, however, there are still conflicts of interest within the association. The first question was how to redefine the relationship between the original ASEAN members and their former adversary Vietnam. There were several drawbacks to a swift enlargement process, not in the least the economic state of the CLMV countries (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam), all of which still have a long way to catch up the economic gap. The newer member states have also complicated ASEAN’s common position towards external partners, adding the strategic and historical preferences of an additional four countries to take into consideration. For instance, Myanmar’s strong ties with, and Vietnam’s traditional hostility towards, China have complicated ASEAN’s already careful balancing act with its large neighbor.

Over the past two decades, ASEAN has made several attempts to strengthen Southeast Asia’s position in the wider Asian region. In 1994 the ASEAN Regional Forum, in 1997 the ASEAN Plus Three (APT, with China, Japan and South Korea) and in 2005 the East Asia Summit (APT plus India, Australia and New Zealand), all these ASEAN initiated organizations have increased its relevance in its immediate neighborhood and forged better ties with its main partners.

ASEAN’s relation with China and the United States

As the emerging power in East Asia, China is the main driver behind the geopolitical reconfiguration that is taking place. Since the beginning of the 1990s, with the rise of economy, China has stepped forward as a vitally important political and economical actor in the region. China’s rapidly transformed relations with ASEAN became a catalyst in the development of ASEAN-centred multilateral platforms for tension reduction, confidence building, security enhancement, economic cooperation, and indeed community building: the ASEAN Regional Forum (1994), ASEAN Plus Three (1997), and East Asian Summit (2005), CSCAP (1992), ADMM Plus (2010), etc.

Thus, for Southeast Asian countries the United States’ contribution to Southeast Asian and Asian security is of vital importance. The US pivot to Asia sees a more “partnership” of US with its core allies in the region: Japan, Australia, and a set of mutual assistance relationships with countries such as South Korea, the Philippines, Singapore, and others. These allies have great stakes in the shaping of regional security and are capable of sharing responsibilities and providing substantive material, political and policy contributions to regional security order. At the core of the US pivot is to share its regional security responsibilities with its key allies and partners in the region. Since the 1950s, relations between the United States and Southeast Asia have revolved predominantly around security issues. US involvement is seen as a counterweight to China and a potential stabilizer in the Asia-Pacific region.

The US pivot to Asia and China’s taking more traditional realpolitik approach to security issues in the region reflect an ambivalent view of both US and China over the role of ASEAN-centred multilateral processes and platforms for regional security and for the potential security scenarios in the years to come. This diversification in the processes, mechanisms and platforms for regional security and the new strategic posture of US and China, have “shrunk” the institutional and material basis for ASEAN to be effective in the shaping of regional security. The US-China relations might be first and foremost global and structural, and great power politics in the global structure defines the parameters on the regional security structure, and the role of various stakeholders. The space for ASEAN to an effective balancer is more limited than many have thought.

ASEAN and the South China Sea disputes

The South China Sea disputes involve both island and maritime claims among several sovereign states within the region, namely China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei. The increasing escalation of the dispute in the South China Sea may indicate a change of policy and strategic intent from disputant countries. There are rivaling territorial claims among various ASEAN member states regarding the South China Sea, the main issue exists between China on the one hand and several Southeast Asian countries on the other (Egberink, 2011). ASEAN member-states have differing views on the issues associated with the South China Sea, and have different attitudes and sharing interests with China and the United States.

ASEAN — as an regional organization, have used every ASEAN-led platform (the ASEAN Regional Forum, the ASEAN Plus Three, the East Asia Summit etc.) to formulate a peace settlement over the South China Sea disputes. Trying to act like balance-of-power, ASEAN have made every effort to build rich, deep and solid material relations with China, US, Japan, Australia, India and others. Strong and rich material basis for the bilateral relations serve as a stabilizing force for the relations to sustain structural shifts that take place from time to time. More numbers of great powers involved provide a better security environment for ASEAN as it diffuses the power of the powers and increases the costs, material and institutional, of structural shifts in great power politics for the powers themselves. However, it should be pointed out that ASEAN’s limited material capabilities and divergent strategic interests result in institutional ineffectiveness so that it’s quite hard to manage the balance-of-power in East Asia.


The security landscape in the Asia-Pacific has seen visible change in the past few years. This paper has examined the significant shifts in the security landscape in the Asia-Pacific, particularly how the great power politics between US and China affect the role of ASEAN and ASEAN-centred multilateral processes and platforms. America’s security commitment to Asia and its role as a counterweight to China is much welcomed by the ASEAN countries, ASEAN and China share important principles in their thinking about international relations, and China is both more active and more influential in the sphere of multilateral cooperation.

ASEAN have been trying to fit itself in this complicated situation by acting as a balance-of-power and inviting major powers to come and talk, especially in the South China Sea disputes. However, the conflict of interests among the member states, the unpredictable China-US relations and the institutional ineffectiveness make it harder for ASEAN to play such a role in the Asia-Pacific security system.


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Основные термины (генерируются автоматически): ASEAN, APT, ADMM, APEC, CLMV, CSCAP, RSIS, TAC.

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