“The future area conflict in the ASEAN region may shift toward the maritime area, especially the territorial disputes in the ASEAN Region”
I wrote this article in 2002
After cold war, unlike eastern Europe fell into political and economic disarray, the ASSOCIATION OF SOUTH ASEAN NATION (ASEAN) region was able to enjoy a period of relative peace security and prosperity. By then United State (US) general to continue to be engaged in the region at the end of Vietnam War had declined, but it stopped short of complete withdrawal. While it lost some of it major military bases in the region, such as Da Nang in South Vietnam and Subic in the Philippines, it continued to station troops in the Korean peninsula and Japan and maintained security pacts with these two countries and Australia. On the other hand, there was a general acceptance of a US presence in the region by countries in the region, including China. While most ASEAN countries were worried by the US great power policy and the Cold War, they did not wish to see any new power emerging within the region to take up any power vacuum, be it China, Japan or Indonesia.
The ASEAN region has historically been a region with diverse ethnic, cultural and religious subgroup. Although there has been much sharing of common experience and interest among the ASEAN nations, there have been brief periods of conflict between member states and a number of disputes over territories and resources remain unresolved. With the end of Cold War and the reduction or super power presence in the region, there is potential for ASEAN member states to be drawn into conflict over dispute territory and resources, particularly in maritime areas. There is a need for regional and international forums to address these issue in order to avoid to possibility of conflict between ASEAN states.
Major arms conflict, such as those in Indo-China are over, but there are still a number of unresolved issues that are potential flash point. They include the military standoff in the Korean peninsula and the unresolved boundary between Russia and Japan over Northern islands. There are also a number of maritime disputes in both East and South East Asia; these include those between Japan and China over Senkuku/Tia Oyuti Island; between Japan and Korea over Dokko/Takeshima; between Malaysia and Singapore over Pedro Branca Island; between Malaysia and Indonesia over Ambalat; between Malaysia and Brunei over limbang territory in Sarawak; and between the Philippines and Malaysia over Sabah. The most problematic is competing claims over the Spratlys in the South China Sea by six states. From the situation, we can learn that probably the future area conflict in the ASEAN region may shift towards the maritime area, especially the territorial water of the South China Sea.
Maritime security consideration are likely to become more prominent in the ASEAN region. Part of the problem is likely to become complicated from unsettled boundaries at sea; some of which are carried over from the Cold War era. For example; Malaysia-Singapore over two island; the dispute has nowgone before the International Court of Justice (ICJ); Malaysia-Indonesia over the status of Ambalat. The dispute now with ICJ; overlapping claims in South China almost all countries which overlapping claims in the South China Sea have to manage China which claims the entire area.
The ASEAN was founded in Bangkok in August 1967 and this regional association has grown into a “regional community of security interest” due the intensive web of relationship, including bilateral ones in the security-military field. The ASEAN summit in Singapore in early 1992 has agreed that ASEAN should establish intra-regional security cooperation as well as cooperation with the wider Asia Pacific region. In addition, security cooperation in ASEAN has been bilateral, involving join exercises, training, border-patrol and intelligence exchanges. In the case of the security of the Malacca Strait a joint operational coordination against piracy has been established between the Indonesian, Malaysian and Singaporean navies in late 1992.
Some coordination on procurement of major equipment or platforms and their operations, for instance in maritime surveillance capabilities, might be needed since these platforms are still very expensive; Cooperation in overcoming small scale threats, such as smuggling, illegal entries of immigrants, pollutions, fish poaching and drug-trafficking, is another reason for working together. As mentioned above with the many problems in the ASEAN region, but especially the maritime disputes each country has shown good cooperation in order to solve the problems. By entering into bilateral and multilateral agreement. Firstly, ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) was founded in Singapore in 1992. it is an agreement by ASEAN to reduce trade barriers, such as quotas tariffs, among member’s state. Secondly, Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) was founded in 1989, largely through Australian encouragement. The encourage economic development clearly has a security dimension. There is growing awareness in the region of the linkage between economic stability and security but the more recently established ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) is the appropriate forum for security dialogue in the region.
The ARF was formally launched in 1994 to deal explicitly with issues affecting regional security. The ARF was born in part as a rejection of a European model of security that was based on a combination of great power politics and legalistic intitutionalism. Every discussion in the ARF is looking more closely at the kind of hard decisions and choices that are necessary to solve some of these conflict. For the first time the ARF came into ASEAN region because of the following factors; Firstly, ASEAN’s acknowledged credibility as a regional grouping that has proved its ability to maintain sub regional stability. Secondly, ASEAN is an open regional association friendly to extra regional countries. Thirdly, the convergence of interest to maintain economic growth in the pacific region. Fourthly, the existence of a well-established relationship between ASEAN and its dialogue partners.
The ARF must be willing to move into uncharted territory in order to achieve limited but concrete result if it is to maintain relevance in the coming decade. Three general principles must be discussed as the possible basis for forward movement. First, sub regional agreements and dialogue should be encourage where result can be achieved. Secondly, tacit agreement and arrangement should be introduced in principle as a means to achieve medium term accords. Thirdly, a small number of difficult issues should addressed immediately, placing results ahead of though, not in place of, consensus and pronouncement that allow states to avoid problematic trends and hard political choices. Fourthly, sub regional leaders must find pragmatic solution before trends in conventional arms and power projection over take events.
In conclusion, some of the problems of security in ASEAN region are not only because of maritime boundary disputes but are also about economic, especially internal economic weakness. Thailand and Indonesia had a change in political leadership because of economic problems. Economic problems could also create external problems for instance, between Malaysia-Singapore. Both countries start blaming each other over petty matters and small issues are suddenly exploited. The economic contagion has exposed some weakness in ASEAN security in particular bilateral relationship. An exodus of people has led to serious political, cultural and social problems in their host countries, a fact that a few countries have come recognize.
The economic contagion has weakened ASEAN and has exposed ASEAN vulnerabilities. For example, problems between Singapore with immediate neighbors of Malaysia and Indonesia were brought into the open, all because of economic crises in both countries. Countries that are normally friendly with each other suddenly become unfriendly.
The ARF needs to move from an exchange of views to problem solving. As an exercise in preventive diplomacy, the ARF could attempt to narrow the gap where differences exist on regional issues. The ARF should develop the meeting of the Intersessional Group to focus on particular themes and issues. Such thematic discussion would lead to focused exchange of views and building of agenda for regional security cooperation. The ARF still revolves around the issues on how to develop in it order to make all member countries comfortable. The effort are; Firstly, how to develop ARF as a Confidence Building Measure channel; secondly, as a preventive diplomacy channel; thirdly, to develop ARF to become of forum for conflict resolution. More over, the regional security agenda will dominated by three sets of concern:
First, impact of internal or domestic problems on regional stability and their possible spill over effect; Second, territorial disputes, especially maritime issues (fishing disputes, EEZ protection, etc.); and third, transnational issues and boat people, and traditional security concern arising from weapons proliferation and force modernization.
A problem solving approach would maintaining adherence to ARF and the UN principles but would focus energy on bilateral resolutions to individual island claims. Were the ARF to support this approach and can play a useful role to solve the problem on their sovereignty claims. In addition, The United Nation must pay attention to the maritime boundary dispute in the ASEAN region to avoid wider bilateral or regional conflict in ASEAN region.
- Jusuf Wanandi, 1996 Asia Pacific After Cold War,CSIS, Jakarta pp.109,118,179
- John Garafano, April 1999 Ways Forward For the ARF
- Barry Desker,201 The Future of ARF
- Hasan Wirayuda, 2001 Hubungan Indonesia dengan Negara ASEAN, Jakarta
- Hadi Soesastro and Anthony Bergin, 1996 The Role of Security and Economic Cooperation Structures in the Asia Pacific Region, CSIS, Jakarta