Biennial Conference

of the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies:

Security Trends in the Asia-Pacific Region

15-17 June 2004


·         Overview

o        Description:  The Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies’ fifth Biennial Conference brought together over 200 individuals, including 34 high-level country representatives, 23 speakers from 12 countries in the region (nine of whom were distinguished presenters representing the offices of Secretary of State and Defense, the State of Hawaii, the U.S. Senate, and the Indian armed forces), and 105 Fellows from 35 countries.

o        Objectives:  This conference successfully achieved the original objectives:

§         To allow comparison of perspectives from different sub regions in the Asia-Pacific.

§         To identify developments in national, regional, and human security that will shape the security environment of the Asia-Pacific in the near future.

§         To suggest approaches and strategies for averting emerging and continuing threats to security faced by Asia-Pacific countries.

§         To facilitate the exchange of views on these issues between security analysts from throughout the Asia-Pacific region, broadening the outlook of participants and inculcating a sense of shared destiny.

§         To indicate areas of emphasis for APCSS research, curriculum development, and conference agendas over the next three years.

o        Outline:  The first day of the conference featured speakers describing the U.S. perspective on security trends in the region.  The second day was primarily devoted to regional perspectives.  The final three panels allowed for summary and synthesis of the topics discussed during the previous five panels.


·         Main Themes

o        Views on Security Trends:  In general, U.S. speakers tended to describe security trends with relation to developments since Sept. 11, 2001.  They pointed out that instead of solely pursuing weapons systems and military strength, the United States has begun to see the need to develop stronger soft power capabilities.  Participants stressed the need to emphasize ideas rather than only weapons as the basis for victory over terrorism.  While economics may play some role in forming a basis for terrorists to thrive, it is more apparent that the war on terrorism is mainly an ideological battle.

o        Divergent Priorities:  Different sub regions in the Asia-Pacific place differing emphasis on the security issues that confront them.  These issues run the gamut from state-to-state rivalries through transnational threats, and even the transnational issues range from terrorism to softer issues such as environmental security.  Because the countries order their priorities differently not only from each other, but also from the United States, U.S. policymakers must use sub regional approaches.

o        Prospects for Cooperation:  While these divergent priorities can be seen as a challenge to security cooperation, they also provide the opportunity for bargaining that allows the countries involved to play on each other’s strengths.  Such cooperation must span the full range of both war fighting and non-war fighting means of providing security.


·         Global War On Terrorism

o        Extremism:  Some speakers listed varied causes of terrorism, to include poverty and lack of education, while others pointed out that differing ideology and psychological causes were possible factors.  The United States must cooperate with moderate elements within the Islamic community to contain extremist elements.  Some possible methods suggested for accomplishing this were ensuring the proper use of Islamic terms, awarding economic aid, implementing educational programs, and increasing confidence-building measures including conferences such as this one.

o        Maritime Security (RMSI/PSI):  Piracy and smuggling of weapons, drugs, and humans were identified as serious security threats in the region because they supply funding for terrorist networks, although a caution was raised about linking all transnational crimes to terrorism.  Intelligence sharing was broadly supported as a cooperative measure.  Interdiction on the high seas or territorial waters raised the question of sovereignty, but some speakers argued this should not be the case.

o        Iraq:  One of the major challenges alluded to throughout the conference is the impact of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM.  For example, some participants questioned the legitimacy of   U. S. critiques of human rights in Asian nations following the disclosures of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib.  It might also be more difficult for some Asian leaders to carry out security cooperation with the United States due to the lack of support for IRAQI FREEDOM among the populaces of Asian nations.  However, the recent U.N. Security Council resolution has alleviated some of the concerns regarding perceived U.S. unilateralism.


·         Regional Hotspots

o        Kashmir:  Speakers from India and Pakistan were guardedly optimistic about the current dialogue.  The physical presence of the United States and the fact that both sides have nuclear weapons have worked in concert to help stabilize the situation without future solution in sight.

o        Korea:  Speakers expressed mixed views about the outcome of the Six Party Talks.  Things will most likely remain in a stalemate until the elections are over.

o        China-Taiwan:  While panelists from NE Asia did not explicitly raise this issue as an urgent crisis, many speakers tacitly acknowledged that China-Taiwan continues to be an important security issue.


·         Expectations About China:  The rise of China was described as a central consideration in the foreign policy of countries in the Asia-Pacific.  Some speakers articulated the viewpoint that China’s economic growth is the source of its growing confidence in regional multilateral security frameworks.  China’s neighbors see growing economic cooperation with China as complementing rather than contradicting existing security cooperation with the United States.  U.S.-China relations are currently viewed as having improved over the past three years.  Asian countries find this advantageous in that they enjoy more leeway in their conduct of security cooperation in the region.  Some expressed concern that China’s economy was overheating, and that a downturn would have negative ramifications for the region’s economies.


·         Security Architectures:  One of the foremost themes that emerged during the discussion of the global war on terrorism was what type of security architecture would be most appropriate to meet regional security challenges.

o        A major question was what type of approach the United States should take in order to be successful in its efforts against terrorism.  While the United States has been pursuing a combination of ad hoc multilateralism and bilateral approaches, several speakers suggested a more institutionalized multilateralism through such mechanisms as the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum (ARF) might be a better option.  On the other hand, others questioned whether multilateral institutions are capable of reaching timely and effective solutions.

o        In NE Asia the Six-Party Process covering North Korean nuclear development was suggested as one possible example that could grow into a more permanent sub regional feature and might outlive the present crisis.  Many speakers expressed their skepticism about ASEAN’s ability to solve intraregional crises such as Burma.  On this note, it was also suggested that institutions such as ARF offer an opportunity for continued dialogue with countries under scrutiny by the international community.

o        The efficacy of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) continues to depend on the level of tension between India and Pakistan.


·         U.S. Leadership in the Asia-Pacific:  American speakers emphasized that changes in the forward deployment posture of the U.S. military are primarily based on technological and tactical considerations.  However, U.S. allies in Asia expressed some concerns about the politico-strategic ramifications of such changes.  Additionally, to resolve the problems associated with these different perceptions, it was suggested that the United States must improve its prior consultation with partners and allies in the region when launching new initiatives.  However, some U.S. participants pointed out that it is also the allies’ responsibility to ensure communication with their domestic public.


·         Regional Differences in Security Focus:  During the regional panels, it became apparent that speakers from different regions, and even countries within regions, ordered security threats differently.  How these countries define security makes a huge difference in their foreign and domestic policy decisions.  While some NE Asian participants emphasized internal security considerations, most speakers from the region primarily emphasized external security issues such as North Korea and the Taiwan Strait.  Meanwhile, SE Asian and S. Asian panelists tended to demonstrate a much greater concern for internal stability and their countries’ abilities to deal with threats to that stability.  In this context, separatist movements, ethnic strife, and issues related to human security become vital considerations.  The militaries in these sub regions often continue to pursue the dual roles of providing both internal and external security, sometimes to the detriment of their own resources and capabilities.


·         Natural Resource Competition:  Asia’s exploding energy demand has given rise to a whole new level of concern over energy security.  Several speakers pointed out that the competition over possible oil reserves in the South China Sea might intensify.  In NE Asia oil pipelines from the Russian Far East are of critical importance for all other countries of the region.  With regard to South and SE Asia, participants expressed concern about water resource sharing between upstream and downstream states.  Normal seasonal fluctuations in water level are exacerbated by the decisions of upstream countries. In several countries, the availability of potable water is a concern.


·         Summary of Challenges and Opportunities

o        The Asia-Pacific region continues to be an area where the possibility of major power conflicts remains a serious concern for U.S. security planners.

o        At the same time, emerging non-traditional and transnational security threats are often intertwined with traditional state-to-state rivalries, thereby presenting even greater challenges to security cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region.

o        Countries in the region order their security priorities differently.  Soft power initiatives encompassing the full range of non-war fighting means, including many elements of the Theater Security Cooperation program of USPACOM, are helpful in building mutual understanding of these differing security priorities and finding common ground among the security partners.  Regional centers are instrumental in this process.

o        Security goes beyond the military, and must be viewed comprehensively.  Economic development and security must be developed in concert instead of one relying on the other.  Cultural and educational exchanges are examples of opportunities for developing mutual understanding, thus creating a base for greater regional cooperation.

o        With opportunities come responsibilities.  Where common security interests exist between the United States and Asia-Pacific states, both must clearly communicate their own security needs to their partners as well as their domestic publics in a timely and effective manner.

o        Where security interests diverge among the Asia-Pacific states, more communication, rather than less, should be encouraged.