The RSIS Multilateralism and Regionalism Programme held a roundtable on “Strategic Engagement in the Asia Pacific: The Future of the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting-Plus (ADMM-Plus)” on 24 July 2013. As the region geared up for the second ADMM-Plus on 29 August 2013, the roundtable aimed to encourage timely and relevant discussions about regional security cooperation at both the bilateral and multilateral levels. Experts from around the region were invited to share country perspectives on the function and relevance of the ADMM-Plus, and on the wider issue of strategic engagement within the emerging security architecture in the Asia Pacific.
The commentaries in this policy brief arise from the presentations and discussions at the roundtable. Four main questions were addressed. First, how do regional countries implement strategic engagement—bilaterally and multilaterally—in the context of the U.S. rebalance to Asia? Most East Asian states have sought to keep the United States strategically engaged in the region and they have welcomed the U.S. rebalance strategy. Yet, they do not want to be forced to choose between the great powers. As the commentaries in this volume note, regional countries wish therefore to preserve their autonomy and diversify their engagement with various partners across several sectors.
Second, can non-traditional security issues sustain cooperation in the long-term? How long can traditional security issues be put aside in the dialogue? Cooperation under the ADMM-Plus focuses on non-traditional security areas such as counter-terrorism, disaster management, maritime security, military medicine and peacekeeping operations. A milestone in regional security cooperation was achieved in June 2013 as the ADMM-Plus held its first Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) and Military Medicine Exercise in Brunei, involving about 3,200 personnel from 18 countries. This certainly needs to be welcomed as cooperation on such matters helps to promote trust and confidence in the region. Yet, a couple of commentaries in this volume argue that regional security forums such as the ADMM-Plus will have to at some point address traditional security issues to ensure their relevance to regional geopolitics.
Third, to what extent are bilateral and multilateral engagement strategies complementary? Clearly, strategic engagement is conceptualised and implemented differently between two partners as opposed to within a much larger setting involving 18 participants with sometimes divergent strategic interests. That said, the activities of the ADMM-Plus could also complement what is being done at the bilateral level. For example, the commentary on Japan’s view of the ADMM-Plus highlights the multilateral forum’s usefulness in helping to boost Tokyo’s bilateral relations.
Finally, what role does the ADMM-Plus play in a country’s strategic engagement policy? Overall, the commentaries note that the ADMM-Plus, and regional defence engagement in general, are valuable elements of regional countries’ strategic policies. The importance of the ADMM-Plus stems from the transnational nature of security threats, its usefulness as a platform for regional countries to engage with one another and with the major powers, as well as its contribution to the emerging security architecture in the region.
The commentaries in this policy brief are structured around three sections. The first commentary provides an overview of the strategic engagement in the Asia Pacific. The second group of four commentaries discusses the perspectives of the United States and China, while the third group focuses on the perspectives of other regional powers, namely Australia, India, Indonesia and Japan.
Ralf EMMERS is an Associate Professor and Coordinator of the Multilateralism and Regionalism Programme at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore.
East Asia and Asia Pacific / International Politics and Security / Policy Reports / Regionalism and Multilateralism / Southeast Asia and ASEAN
Last updated on 26/11/2014