RSIS Luncheon Webinar (Dec 2020)
Defence Diplomacy in Southeast Asia: Managing Smaller Powers' Strategic Space
- Olli Pekka Suorsa, Research Fellow, Maritime Security Programme, IDSS, RSIS
- Chang Jun Yan, Associate Research Fellow, US Programme, IDSS, RSIS
This chapter focuses on the Association of Southeast Asian States (ASEAN) ‘core’ states—Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and the Philippines—defence diplomacy and security cooperation in tackling regional maritime security problems. It demonstrates the link between defence diplomacy and the smaller powers’ management of regional strategic space. The chapter analyses the five states’ functional cooperation and shortcomings in maritime domain at three distinct and overlapping dimensions: bilateral, multilateral and sub-regional, or minilateral, security cooperation. The chapter begins by an assessment of the five actors’ maritime security capacity, and limitations therein, to address the myriad of maritime security challenges. Next, the chapter moves on to assess cooperation and capacity building with extra-regional allies and partners at bilateral and multilateral (ASEAN) levels in turn. Finally, the chapter takes a closer look at Southeast Asia’s sub-regional, or ‘minilateral’, mechanisms, notably the Malacca Strait Patrols and the Trilateral Cooperative Arrangement as examples of the ASEAN core states’ willingness to claim ownership of the region’s own security challenges and avoid becoming a ground for major power competition. The functional cooperation on maritime security offers an important case study to assess the regional strive for a realist-style ‘self-help’ for building regional capacity and readiness against the myriad of maritime security threats and for the management of regional strategic space void of outright interference by outside powers.