Think Tank (2/2021)
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Great Power Rivalry and Maritime Order in Southeast Asia
08 Mar 2021

On 9 March 2021, RSIS, Japan’s National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS) and Indonesia’s Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) co-organised a webinar titled “Great Power Rivalry and Maritime Order in Southeast Asia” under the auspices of the Policy Research Network on Contemporary Southeast Asia (PRN-SEA).

The PRN-SEA was initiated by GRIPS in 2019. It brings together universities, think tanks and other research institutes in Japan and Southeast Asia. Its first phase of research comprises five clusters examining specific challenges in Southeast Asia. Apart from great power rivalry and maritime order, these clusters are: state responses to extremism, sustainable economic growth, development cooperation partnership, and environmental issues.

The webinar began with opening remarks by Ambassador Ong Keng Yong, Executive Deputy Chairman of RSIS, and Ambassador Yutaka Iimura, Senior Fellow of GRIPS. The two panellists, Dr Yusuke Takagi, an Associate Professor at GRIPS, and Ms Jane Chan, Senior Fellow and Coordinator of the Maritime Security Programme at RSIS, then discussed the regional dynamics of maritime security amid the influence of the great powers.

Participants noted the importance for Southeast Asia of the 2016 ruling on the South China Sea by the Arbitral Tribunal, as well as the different interests of regional countries regarding maritime security. It was emphasised that studying the changes in regional countries was no less important than studying the attitudes of the great powers towards Southeast Asia, which have not changed significantly.

Participants also discussed the difficulty of maintaining ASEAN’s centrality in the face of the influence of extra-regional powers and noted that the impact of external powers on maritime security was especially salient. It was observed that trust between ASEAN and China remained lacking despite some practical cooperation. Differences in objectives between ASEAN and the Quad — the informal strategic forum involving the United States, Australia, Japan and India — and the triangular dynamics between these two entities and China were also discussed.

Catch it here on the RSISVideoCast YouTube channel:

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