Asia Pacific Democracies: Advancing Prosperity and Security


(8 – 10 Jun 05)


The 2005 Pacific Symposium, co-sponsored by the National Defense University, United States Pacific Command and the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies provided a forum for practitioners and scholars from the US and the Asia-Pacific region to examine political transitions in Asia, their consequences for the region, and the implications for US foreign and security policies.  The symposium brought together 245 delegates from 43 countries and territories.

The symposium was organized around broad themes relating to how the remarkable expansion of democracy and sustained economic growth in Asia present new opportunities and challenges for US policy toward the region.  The developments also have implications for civil-military relations, alliance responsibilities, and security cooperation.  These themes were reflected in the six plenary panel sessions, two keynote addresses, and a special briefing by USPACOM/J-3 on the December 2004 Tsunami Relief and Humanitarian Assistance Efforts.

Dr. Stephen J. Flanagan succinctly summed up the ideas presented during the conference with the following remarks:  Democracy is here to stay, albeit fragile.  Democracy makes it easier to deal with globalization.  Not quite a consensus that democracies don’t go to war with each other, but there were variations.  It was also noted that alliances between states have certain key patterns that may facilitate partnerships elsewhere.  It was noted that the United States’ communication approach with regards to China is still lacking.  Another key note of the panels was that the United States’ focus on terrorism is hurting our relationship(s) with other countries in the region.  With regards to Japan and Korea, we see that history still matters.  With regards to transnational security threats we need to deal with aspects of sovereignty.  On a positive note, which came out of the Tsunami Relief panel, our military to military relationship (Theater Security Cooperation Plan) is of great benefit, building trust and cooperation in the region.

Dr. Jimmie R. Lackey closed the 99th APCSS-affiliated conference with a few takeaways.  APCSS Executive Course 05-2 was fortunate enough to attend, asking intriguing questions, and able to take many lessons learns back home with them.  This conference will present opportunity for conference spin-offs to look at individual themes in greater detail.  It will also provide opportunity for in depth research efforts.  Lastly, he spoke with great anticipation about the publication as a result of this conference in the coming months.

Panel I – Democracy, National Security and Foreign Policy – Lessons Learned from the Philippines, Indonesia, and Taiwan

This panel addressed questions on how the democratic transition in the respective countries has affected the public and internal government on national and international security issues.  The panel also addressed how democratization has affected their foreign and security policies.  Lastly, emerging security concerns in the respective countries and how well they align with the US priorities, as well as what can be done to enhance security and defense cooperation between the respective countries and the US were questions posed to the panelists.

The panelists from the Philippines and Indonesia both see democracy in their respective countries as a work in progress (e.g., dealing with corruption).  Both are challenged by the military accepting the principle of civilian control over the military.  The Taiwan panelist sees his country’s democracy as China’s beacon to a democratic future.

Gen Abaya also discussed “rule of the people” in their foreign policy, using the recent case of Angelo Dela Cruz, and the government’s decision to pull out their troops from Iraq earlier than scheduled to save the life of Dela Cruz, prioritizing the welfare of Filipino overseas workers (their economy’s lifeblood) over anything else.

All three panelists see the International Military Education and Training (IMET) program as a way to enhance security cooperation.  Extend US cultural and economic influence to China’s peripheries, non-political elites, and their youth.  Improve communication with Taiwan for strategy with China.

Dinner Keynote Address – Asia-Pacific Democracies:  Promoting Prosperity and Security

Vice Admiral Gary Roughead, the Deputy Commander, US Pacific Command presented comments on Pacific Command’s goals in the region as well as his perspective on fighting terrorism not only on the military front, but using the police force, financial networks, and intelligence sharing and communication.

PACOM’s goals for the region center on security, opportunity, and freedom for Asia Pacific nations.  Related tasks include bilateral/multilateral exercises, natural disaster response, information sharing, transnational threats, and other requirements, with terrorism being PACOM’s highest priority.

Admiral Roughead made reference to terrorist sanctuaries in Southeast Asia, work with our Korean neighbors, peaceful resolution to the Taiwan Straits dilemma, our work with India for regional security, Indonesia’s entrance into the IMET programs after years of restrictions, and our work with the Tsunami relief effort, the use of JIACG, and how our twenty years of preparation as a command made us well prepared to respond to such a disaster.  Admiral Roughead also discussed the military transition (transformation) in the AOR, and that it does not present any exceptional challenges.

Panel II – Alliance Relationships – Democracies working together

Questions posed to panelists included what are key obstacles to good alliance relations, how are domestic political differences affecting their governments’ positions on defense cooperation with the US, and what effect is generational change having on support of the alliance?

Panelists and participants commented that the global war on terrorism is the #1 priority for the US, but not for most of the Asia-Pacific countries.  Australia sees no lessening of support by the younger generation, but warned of a growing Aus-China relationship as their trade relations grow.

Since the end of the Cold War and the first Gulf War, Japan’s populace appears willing to pursue a more normal foreign policy, an increased international contribution.  According to the polls, the overall attitude towards the Japan-US alliance and US policy is positive.

The South Korean panelist was frank and straightforward in his discussion of the US-ROK alliance.  He explained the reason for the recent surge in Anti-American sentiment as having deep-seeded historical roots, providing four examples dating back to 1904.  Our relationship with Japan will affect how we are perceived by the Koreans, citing the upcoming visit by the Japanese Prime Minister to the island of Saipan commemorating the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II in the Pacific.

It was the consensus of the panel that the potential for a major war in the theater still remains.

Panel III – Working with Countries in Transition:  Fostering Democracy

Panelists were asked how the US could help build relationships with new leaders, without interfering in internal politics, how are they dealing with non-democratic states, and is there a regional consensus to deal with such states?  Lastly, what is the potential for an anti-democracy trend in Asia, and what might be the sources of the movement?

All panelists noted Asia’s lack of organization (a Pacific community), in comparison to Europe, relying instead on consensus.  The region is simply too diverse, and too divided by historical animosities.  The attempted formation of a democratic caucus for Asia, or a conscious effort at promoting democracy within China, would alienate China and obstruct the goals of security, peace and democratic development.

Almost unanimously, panelists and participants were critical of the US administration for focusing primarily on counterterrorism.  Panelists endorsed an economics first policy as a way to ultimately foster democracy.  The downside is that it takes a long time to bear fruit, as evidenced by the cases of Taiwan and South Korea.  Economics first, followed by indirect democracy promotion strategy, involving rule of law, anticorruption, and funding for NGOs.  Lastly, there is the direct approach to democracy promotion, involving election monitoring for example.

The panelists do see a consensus among foreign governments criticizing bad policy decisions by their neighbors, maybe even relinquishing its non-interference principle.  There seems to be a growing regional consensus not on democracy promotion, but on the promotion of good governance when its absence creates negative spillovers in the region.

Luncheon Keynote Speaker – Our Future Security Environment

Dr. Fumio Ota (Japan), the Director of the Center for Security and Crisis Management Education, National Defense Academy, presented a paper and briefing explaining our transition from fighting wars betweens nation states, to fighting wars between alliances, to now fighting wars between coalition and non-state actors.  He cited the shifting strategy of the US following the 9/11 terrorist attacks with the QDR issued in Sep 2001, and then the concept of preemptive action found in the National Security Strategy of the USA issued in Sep 2002.  He also talked about the ongoing military transformation and the need for fully exploiting human intelligence.

Dr. Ota concluded with saying that it is time to transform the US-Japan alliance from one based on only “defense of Japan” or “situations in areas surrounding Japan” into one focused more on Japan’s global role.

Panel IV – US Security Policies

The March 2005 National Defense Strategy describes the attributes required of US military forces in terms of size, shape, and global posture.  Panelists were asked how these requirements are reflected in Asia, and how this will impact the frequency or level of exercises, bilateral and multilateral operations, and mil-mil relations.  The panelists were also asked how well the US government is making the case within Asia to support US security policies and goals.

The panelists talked about the Taiwan procurement bill, and the posturing of troops in Northeast Asia to deal with the threat from North Korea and China.  The panelists concentrated their comments on China, and the growing risk of Islamic fundamentalism in the region, mainly Indonesia and the Philippines.  The panelists would like to see a change in the war on terror shape going from military action to one of law enforcement and winning the hearts and minds.

Panel V – Cooperation on Transnational Security Threats

Panelists were asked what are the emerging security concerns and priorities in your country and how well do they align with the US.  They were also asked how to best build cooperation to counter terrorism, piracy, civil and human rights violations, etc.

Panelists see piracy, disease (e.g., avian flu), drug trafficking, illegal immigration, and concern over insurgencies in neighboring countries spilling over into their countries as emerging security concerns.  Panelists and participants discussed the root causes of terrorism and the need for more emphasis other than the military efforts and the ideological aspects.

Panelists and participants provided many ways to enhance cooperation to counter the transnational threats.  Among them were building up and training the police force, maritime enforcement, and intelligence agencies; increase training assistance at counterterrorism training centers; education with regards to multiracial, multi-religious, and social tolerance; and economic development.  The panelists saw many opportunities to “kill two birds with one stone.”

Special Briefing – Tsunami Relief and Humanitarian Assistance Efforts

The Deputy Director of Operations, US Pacific Command presented an overview on “Operation Unified Assistance.”  He gave a chronology of events from the time of the tsunami until about March 2005, showed before and after satellite pictures, and covered the commander’s intent to subordinate units.  BGen Lefebvre made not of the Combined Support Force vice the normal Task Force to further define the humanitarian effort, and not a military action.  The briefing showed the extensive participation by the participating nations, both military operations as well as the civilian relief operations.  Lastly, lessons learned were addressed, to include linking the lessons learned to future exercises in the Theater Security Cooperation Plan.

Participants did ask Gen Lefebvre how the US intended to spin this good news story to their benefit.  Gen Lefebvre stated that it was not our intent to use this humanitarian effort as leverage in the future.

Panel VI – 2004 Tsunami Disaster – Consequences for Regional Cooperation

Panelists were asked how has the US response to relief efforts impacted their government’s attitude toward security cooperation with the US, and what has been the response of the general population to US efforts.  They were also asked what the important lessons of this experience for regional cooperation on other transnational threats were.

Key to the relief efforts was communication.  The use of the Internet was invaluable in deconfliction efforts to avoid duplication of efforts in one area and neglect of another.  The cross pollination of democratic thought was a byproduct of the natural disaster with regards to disaster management.  In most cases military to military relations were already in existence, thereby making the response time as short as possible.  The overall response of the general population was very positive, and grateful.  Lessons learned from this disaster and others included burying bodies quickly to avoid the spread of disease, knowledge from previous flooding in areas alerting the government to the need for fresh water, the need for communication or information sharing, and the requirement for continued military to military relations to continue building trust and relationships.  The establishment of Status of Forces Agreements was also discussed.


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