November 9: Bilateral and Multilateral Security Structures in the Asia-Pacific: Coexistence of Competition?

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November 9, 2011: David Envall, John Ravenhill, Brendan Taylor, and William Tow
ANU Delegation at the EWCW
(Click to enlarge) A delegation of Asia Pacific security experts from Australia National University, discussed the findings of the ANU-MacArthur Asia Security Initiative Partnership Project

Bilateral and Multilateral Security Structures in the Asia-Pacific: Coexistence of Competition?

WASHINGTON, DC (November 9, 2011) --The “economic-security nexus”, the network of US alliances in the Pacific, regional architecture, and arms control were just a few of the topics discussed at a roundtable featuring Asia Pacific security experts from Australia National University. The panelists, Dr. John Ravenhill, Dr. William Tow, Dr. Brendan Taylor, and Dr. David Envall each presented their findings from focus groups on Asia Pacific security thought that were conducted as part of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation supported ANU-MacArthur Asia Security Initiative Partnership Project(ANU-MASI).

Professor Ravenhill and his team delved deeper into the subject of the emergence of an 'economic-security nexus' as a determinant of how Asia Pacific security politics will be shaped. He analyzed the time-tested “more trade equals better relationship” principle in regional economics and came to the conclusion that this might not necessarily hold true anymore in Asia, specifically in Southeast and Northeast Asia. He points towards the rise of industrial China in the region and expressed a lack confidence in international institutions such as ASEAN, APEC, and the WTO to handle this growing and complicated security matter; lacking the clout to moderate and level trade.

Looking at US alliances in the Asia Pacific, specifically Japan, South Korea, Thailand, and the Philippines, Professor Tow believes the US has turned away from threat-centric alliances and focused its attention on more order-centric relationships. These relationships have and will place a bigger emphasis on soft power opposed to threatening hard power. In the case of Thailand and the Philippines, the US has built a soft hedge-like relationship. In regard to South Korea and Japan, Tow believes that an international identity crisis is underway, leading him to question if the roles in Northeast Asia have changed: whether is Japan a “normal power” and too reliant on the US, and whether has South Korea has become a “global power” in its own right?

On the issue of bilateral/multilateral approaches to order-building, Dr. Taylor looked at each approach individually and then addressed the issue of finding a middle-ground or balance between the two. The US, along with China, has favored bilateralism in the past but has recently started to look towards other means in the race to build influence and relationships in the region, while ASEAN supports multilateralism by definition. While the short term goals in the region hope to establish a peaceful coexistence, between these different levels of cooperation, pessimism remains while attempting to draw up a consensus.

Finally Dr. Envall addressed the prospects for regional nuclear arms control. He first explained the challenge that arises when dealing with arms control: the inevitable intersection of nuclear weapons and unbalanced and unstable Asian politics. With every significant relationship in Asia having some tie to a nuclear power and the constant power shifts in the region, Envall and his group believe that nuclear weapons will play a vital role in who comes out on top. This focus group also addressed the Sino-Indian and Sino-American relationships in nuclear terms; with China as the big player, India must choose to compete or take a back-seat, while the United States must choose to whether to extend its deterrence further because of nuclear threat from Iran and North Korea.

Professor John Ravenhill is head of ANU's School of Political Science and International Relations (SPIR) in its College of Arts and Social Sciences. He has written for the top journals in the field, including World Politics, International Oraganization, and Review of International Political Economy and has authored or edited major volumes on the global political economy, especially the fields of trade and production, and Australian foreign policy.

Professor William Tow is Acting Head of the Department of International Relations, School of International, Political and Strategic Studies (IS), College of Asia and the Pacific (CAP). He has authored or edited numerous volumes on Asian security and alliance politics and has published in such journals as China Journal, China Quarterly, International Affairs, Survival and Asian Survey.

Dr. Brendan Taylor is Head of the Strategic and Defense Studies Centre (SDSC) at the ANU. He has published a recent book (with Routledge Press) and an Adelphi Paper on sanctions and has written on regional security architectures and security institutions for such journals as International Affairs, Pacific Affairs, and Review of International Studies.

Dr. David Envall is the MacArthur Project's post-doctoral scholar. A Japan specialist, he has recently published in the Asian Journal of Political Science and edits their project's policy papers.