- The ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting (ADMM) has performed fairly well as an avenue for the ASEAN defence ministers to discuss and exchange views on Southeast Asian security issues, and has been relatively successful in the promotion of functional cooperation in the region. Its success can also be attributed to the ASEAN Way and the focus on non-traditional security matters. In spite of the non-issuance of a Joint Declaration in the 3rd ADMM-Plus, ASEAN centrality in the ADMM-Plus is widely seen to be still intact.
- However, sensitivities regarding sovereignty, as well as differences in viewpoints and capacities have limited regional cooperation. Moreover, the tensions over territorial disputes, major power rivalry, mistrust and arms build-up in the region have complicated the maintenance of ASEAN centrality. The ADMM also has institutional hurdles that may impede improvements to its efficacy.
- As such, ASEAN needs to continue to be the regional leader and speak with a stronger voice. In addition, the ADMM and ADMM-Plus must be better synergised, and the ADMM framework should be able to better feed into other high level forums like the ASEAN and East Asia Summits. In addition, the ADMM should continue cooperating with external partners so as to mobilise further resources. In sum, the ADMM needs to develop a strategic vision for the next five to ten years, while consolidating existing mechanisms and initiatives.
- At the same time, the ADMM-Plus is a good forum for external countries to engage with the core ASEAN countries, giving the defence establishments of the Plus countries greater access to their counterparts with ASEAN member states. The ADMM-Plus also differentiates itself as more than a talk shop by focusing on practical functional cooperation as embodied in its Experts’ Working Groups (EWGs), as well as on confidence and capacity building.
- Nonetheless, the geopolitical uncertainties as stated above also have an impact on the ADMM-Plus. The focus on non-contentious issues has also led to the avoidance of the “hard” defence issues, and there is a need for the ADMM-Plus to step up from cooperation in familiar functional areas. Although the slow pace of decision-making may actually lead to lowered tensions, events may still develop more rapidly than the pace of the ASEAN processes.
- All in all, the United States hopes to promote burden-sharing in the region, while Japan aims to consolidate a rules and norms-based regional framework as part of their engagement with the ADMM-Plus. China similarly supports the ASEAN processes and the ASEAN Way.
East Asia and Asia Pacific / Event Reports / International Politics and Security / Regionalism and Multilateralism / Southeast Asia and ASEAN
Last updated on 25/01/2016