Restructuring the ASEAN Political-Security Community (APSC): Philippine Prospects for Regional Collective Defense and Stronger Military Relations
A Student Foreign Policy Paper
In Partial Fulfillment of Pre-Midterm of the Requirements of IRFS 122: Foreign Service and Analysis of Foreign Policy
Ms. Archill Niña F Capistrano
John Anthony F. Almerino
AB POSC-IRFS 2 Student
Economic development through greater regional cooperation was the primary aim of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) when it was formed on August 8, 1967 by the founding countries of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. Although one of the motivations at that time of forming the association was the common fear of communist expansion (especially in Vietnam) and insurgency within their respective borders, the ASEAN has not ventured into creating a military alliance to promote “regional peace and stability”. Hence, the ASEAN is formally recognized as an economic organization with no military obligations tying member nations.
But with the recent rise of security tensions, primarily caused by the aggressive actions taken by China against the Philippines and co-claimant ASEAN nations over territories located at the South China Sea; the prospect of creating an ASEAN military alliance to solve the “Chinese security problem”, has become very tempting.
The researcher believes that indeed, stronger military relations between ASEAN nations will not only help address the security threat posed by China but also assist in resolving the territorial disputes between co-member nations. Thus, this paper proposes a restructuring of the ASEAN Political-Security Community (APSC) such that it will allow the establishment and creation of the following: (1) A regional military alliance that will promote collective defense (2) the ASEAN peacekeeping force and (3) the ASEAN Security Council. The paper also examines the imperative role of the United States and Japan in the resolution of the security issues in the region; the feasibility of the proposal in the context of the status quo, and the possible problems that will face the military alliance once it is forged.
During the 1970s until the 1990s, security issues began assailing the stability of the Southeast Asian (SEA) region as territorial disputes erupted between fellow ASEAN nations and China. The said disputes were mainly about the disagreement on maritime boundaries and territorial claims made on islands on the South China Sea (or the West Philippine Sea). The situation did not improve upon entering the 21st century as the conflicts seemed to worsen. In 2005, Chinese ships allegedly fired upon two Vietnamese fishing boats from Thanh Hoa province which killed 9 people.1
If there was something common with all the incidents of skirmishes and standoffs in the much contested area since the 1980s, it was the constant involvement of the Chinese navy. China was dubbed as the rising bully of the South China Sea. With a formidable military strength and an aggressive foreign policy in dealing with territorial disputes, China was becoming a great security menace to not only the Philippines and the SEA region but to the rest of the world.
The stability of the SEA region is a paramount concern of Philippine national security, one of the three pillars of Philippine foreign policy.2 Moreover, Philippine defense officials and security experts view Chinese expansionist aspirations in the South China Sea as the main longterm security threat to the Philippines.3 The renewed tensions between the Philippines and China last April 8, 2012 at the Scarborough Shoal has led to speculations of a Philippine-China war and its implications to the Philippine-US mutual defense treaty. International relations experts though, doubt the commitment of the US to come in the Philippines defense once it is attacked by China as it...
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